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American Indian Heritage Day at MSU highlights impact of boarding schools, ongoing healing

American Indian Hall at Montana State University
Montana State University Bozeman
American Indian Hall at Montana State University

Montana State University will observe American Indian Heritage Day on Friday with campus-wide events.

The Montana Legislature in 1997 designated the last Friday in September as American Indian Heritage Day, a day to reflect on and celebrate Indigenous culture in the state.

For the second year, Montana State University in Bozeman is using the day to focus on the historical trauma of residential boarding schools – and how survivors are healing.

“Here at MSUC there are over 50 tribal nations represented. It's important to even recognize that a lot of our students myself included, being an alum, are the first almost non-boarding school, non-residential school, generation of, of Indigenous peoples," said Nicholas Ross-Dick, program manager for American Indian/Alaska Native Student Success, and an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation in Washington and a descendant of the Quinault and Nisqually people.

American Indian Heritage Day coincides with Canada's Day for Truth and Reconciliation, recognizing the legacy of residential boarding schools. Ross-Dick says Friday’s events will include educational talks, a community feed and a prayer walk.

“People will see the orange shirts, they will see the tribal flags," he said. "They will see students, our youth kind of walking in solidarity and unity, that this is a commitment, a continued commitment to that healing process.”

Nadya joined Yellowstone Public Radio as news director in October 2021. Before coming to YPR, she spent six years as digital news editor/reporter for the NPR affiliate in Wichita, Kansas, where her work earned several Kansas Association of Broadcasters awards and a regional Edward R. Murrow award for Excellence in Social Media. Originally from Texas, Nadya has lived and worked in Colorado, Illinois, Washington, D.C.; and North Dakota. She lives in Billings with her cat, Dragon, and dog, Trooper, and enjoys hiking, crocheting, and traveling as often as possible.