We are writing regarding the possibility of land reclamation of the former site of St. Pius Mission School for Native Children to the Skagway Traditional Council (STC). St. Pius Missionary School for Native Children in Skagway operated from 1932 to 1960 and began its mission by collecting Native children for the purpose of exterminating Native culture, language and arts.

Not only were mission and boarding schools in the 1900s used to assimilate Native children to make them “civil” by taking away culture and language of the Indigenous people, the Church also introduced sex offenders into the school system. The children who stayed at the school were miles away from the protection of parents and relatives. Recently, mass graves have been discovered at multiple mission school sites that were operated by the same group that operated St. Pius X. These mission schools, including St. Pius X, resulted in generational trauma for many.

Since more than a decade, the tribe has been trying to find funding, resources and documentation to pursue land retribution based on 25.USC.280. The tribe has reached out to the municipality, state and federal agencies, as well as attorneys, to request that the land ownership revert to the tribe prior to the sale to the municipality in 2014. Our request has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. Even if there are no bodies found at this site, the fact remains that this land was acquired to pursue Indian education policies to “civilize” Indians.

Today, we want to thank the mayor and assembly for trying to reconcile the wrongdoing of the past by suggesting that this land be gifted back to Skagway Village. Should the land be repatriated back to the tribe, we plan to consult with our tribal citizens, community members and most importantly with any surviving students and their families with regards to what should be done with the property. Just as the municipality would need to consult the public, so do federally recognized tribes. For us, it is particularly important to engage victims and families of victims in the conversation as part of the healing process.


Sara Kinjo-Hischer

STC Tribal Administrator