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VIDEO: Remembrance Run raises awareness of  Stewart, Indigenous boarding schools

By Bob Conrad

Video by Bob and Nate Conrad

CARSON CITY – Yerington Paiute Tribal member and cross-country runner Kutoven Stevens this past weekend led a run in memory of those who survived – and those who did not – living at the Stewart Indian School.

The school, the only boarding school of its kind in Nevada, was operated by the federal government from the 1800s through 1980. 

Children as young as four were taken from Tribal lands and forced into adopting Christianity, stripped of their native languages and subjected to military-style discipline and white assimilation at federal boarding schools across the United States. 

“We care about all the Native Americans, especially those who had to deal with boarding schools personally,” Stevens said after he finished a 50-mile run from Yerington to the school. “This generational trauma still affects my people today, and I want to finally give them the outlet and opportunity to heal what has been broken for so long.”

He led the run from the Yerington Paiute reservation to raise awareness about the traumas endured by generations of Indigenous Americans. The run began Friday and ended at the school Sunday afternoon.

Stevens said the run in part was to remember his great grandfather who, at age 8, repeatedly ran away from the Stewart School, making the 50-mile trek to his home with the Yerington Paiute Tribe. 

“If it was 100 years ago, that could’ve been me. I could have been stolen from my family,” he said. “People don’t know that. Each and every one of you, you should care.”

Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno

Nearly 200 people are buried at the Stewart school’s cemetery, according to reporting in the Reno News & Review:

“176 Stewart cemetery graves are cataloged. The people interred beneath those markers were students who died while enrolled at the school, staff members, alumni, and their relatives.  About half of those buried in the 176 plots listed on [the] Find a Grave [website] were adults, the rest were children, including some infants. Students who died at the school also are buried in other cemeteries around Northern Nevada.”

A large gathering after the run honored and recognized Stevens and those who suffered from the legacy of boarding schools.

Graves at the Stewart Indian School. Image: Nate Conrad

Olympian Billy Mills and Amber Torres, chair of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, attended and gave remarks at the event. Mills, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, was the first Indigenous American to win a gold medal in the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, who also attended the remembrance ceremony, late last year apologized on behalf of the government for what happened to Indigenous Americans at the Stewart Indian School.

“It was a dark time in our history that this happened,” Sisolak said.

Olympian Billy Mills , Kutoven Stevens, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Amber Torres at the remembrance ceremony. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) was on hand and gave Stevens official Congressional recognition for his activism and success as a runner. She also touted her work on the Senate Committee for Indian Affairs and work with Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous to serve as a federal cabinet secretary.

She said a federal report documented more than 400 federally funded schools from the late 1800s existed to dismantle traditional native cultures.

“There is much more that we can do in this country to grapple with this heavy history,” she said. “The first report from that investigation … documented over 400 schools in 37 states or territories … 

“If you read this report, it was about cultural assimilation and taking away the land from our tribal communities and Native Americans across the country,” she added. “One of the schools identified in this report was the Stewart Indian School.”

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