Light & Shadows of Chalandor Book of Shadows
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Title: Collective wail
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/09/2009 21:38 PM)
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Collective wail

"In our culture, the only time we cut hair is when we are in mourning or when someone has died in the immediate family. We do this to show we are mourning the loss of a loved one."
- Sterling Hollow Horn (Lakota), Pine Ridge, South Dakota, 2000

As the train carrying the first group of Lakota students made its way across the country, townspeople came to every train station to gawk at the children wearing their blankets and moccasins. To avoid this spectacle in Carlisle, Pratt routed the train to a tiny depot several blocks from the main station on High Street. His plan was foiled, and hundreds of cheering Carlisle residents were waiting on the platform. When the travelers arrived at the school, Pratt was enraged to find that the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs had failed to send provisions, bedding or food. The children were forced to sleep, hungry, on the floor in their blankets.

Pratt immediately left to collect the Cheyenne and Kiowa children, and his wife and the teachers took charge of the first wave of assimilation. The process began with the outward signs of Indian appearance - clothing and hair. Confused and homesick, the Lakota children wept as their long hair was cut and fell to the ground. On one of the first nights after the Lakota children arrived, a collective wail rose up from their throats, its wrenching sound echoing across the campus. What they did not yet know was they were mourning the shearing of their cultural identities.
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