UM to Host Conference for Educators Addressing Indigenous Boarding School System

MISSOULA – The University of Montana will host a conference for Montana educators, "Boarding Schools: Remembering Our Resiliency and Shared Knowledge for Trauma-Informed Learning,” on Friday, Sept. 30, the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools.

Organized by UM, the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and the National Native Children’s Trauma Center, the conference is a hybrid event combining in-person and virtual presenters and participants that will run from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a keynote address by Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart and Dr. Deidre Longhair. Continuing education credits will be available for teachers who attend.

The conference coincides with the U.S. government’s ongoing Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, which U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland created to investigate the scope of the boarding school system, which was used as a tool of forced assimilation from the 1800s through the 1960s and severely disrupted Native families and communities.

The first installment of the investigation’s report was released in May, and the department has begun hosting gatherings to hear and document survivors’ accounts of experiences in boarding schools. 

“Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart pioneered the study of the collective traumas experienced by multiple generations of Indigenous North Americans,” said Dr. Maegan Rides At The Door, director of UM’s National Native Children’s Trauma Center. “We are honored to host her and her close collaborator, Dr. Longhair, as speakers for this event, which we hope will equip Montana educators with the skills to address the ongoing effects of historical traumas in our tribal communities.” 

The conference’s primary sessions will be accessible to both in-person and virtual attendees, and there will be additional breakout session workshops for in-person participants. There also will be teaching method workshops in the areas of history, language arts, science, art, media and tribal languages. All attendees are encouraged to wear orange.

Additionally, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. there will be an Every Child Matters walk on the UM Oval and lighting Main Hall in orange to honor boarding school victims, survivors and future generations.

“A national conversation about the boarding school system is long overdue,” Rides At The Door said. “We want to take this opportunity to promote healing from collective trauma and to help prepare Native youth for this important but potentially disturbing conversation about the deaths, abuses and intergenerational suffering created by the system. Montana educators are in a position to lead this effort.”

Additional sponsors for the conference include the Robert and Beverly Braig Family, UM’s Department of Native American Studies, the UM Office of the President, the UM Office of the Provost, the Association of American University Women-Missoula and Missoula’s All Nations Health Center.

Attendees can register for the conference online.

Contact: Dave Kuntz, director of strategic communication, 406-243-5659,