BOZEMAN – “Healing and Resilience” is the focus of Montana State University’s observance of American Indian Heritage Day, which will be celebrated Friday, Sept. 30, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at American Indian Hall on the MSU campus.

The theme was chosen to highlight the Every Child Matters movement, which raises awareness about suffering endured by Indigenous children at boarding schools in North America in the late 19th century.

American Indian Heritage Day is celebrated annually in Montana on the last Friday of September. MSU’s observance will coincide with Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which honors survivors of those residential schools and the children who never returned from them.

Nicholas Ross-Dick, program manager at American Indian/Alaska Native Student Success, said this is the second year the Heritage Day celebration will focus on the boarding school issue. Last year’s theme, “A Voice of the Children,” was chosen to bring awareness to the work being done to return the remains of children who died at those schools to their peoples and communities.

This year, Ross-Dick said, “We really wanted to just continue the work that’s ongoing.”

He noted that Pope Francis recently apologized to the Indigenous peoples of Canada for historical abuses that occurred in church-run residential schools there.

“That was the Catholic church’s legacy of residential schools, and we’re hoping to bring awareness to that by highlighting the really bad things that have happened there and the different perspectives of survivors,” Ross-Dick said.

Heritage Day events will begin at 11 a.m., with opening remarks by Walter Fleming, head of MSU’s Department of Native American Studies in the College of Letters and Science. Guest speaker Eduardo Duran, a psychologist and author of “Healing the Soul Wound: Trauma-Informed Counseling for Indigenous Communities,” will speak directly afterward about the “History and Impact of Residential Schools.”

“His clinical and professional experiences are working with intergenerational trauma, and healing and resilience – he will speak to that,” Ross-Dick said.

An honor song and prayer walk will take place in the Sunrise Plaza after Duran’s talk at 12:10 p.m., followed by a free community feed of bison stew and frybread in the Great Hall.

“Hospitality is a big part of the event, and we want to end on a positive note,” Ross-Dick said.

Self-guided educational exhibits for those who wish to learn more about Every Child Matters will be on display throughout the event.

American Indian Heritage Day events are free and open to the public. The celebration is a collaboration of the Council of American Indian Programs with the support of multiple sponsors, including the Department of Native American Studies.

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