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Le scuole residenziali indiane. Le tombe senza nome e le scuse di Papa Francesco

An investigative book that sheds light on the Indian residential school system, the unmarked graves of Native children discovered in 2021 in Canada, and thoroughly analyses Pope Francis’ 2022 apology and penitential trip and the involvement of the Catholic Church. At the end of May 2021, a media wave, soon to spread worldwide, announced the findings of unmarked graves of native students of Indian residential schools in Canada. Thus, the Indian boarding school system, widespread in North America from the second half of the 19th century until the end of the 20th century, the Churches that ran such government-funded schools, including the predominant Catholic one, and the Canadian government were publicly accused. The work analyses the origins and spread of the educational system of assimilation and Christianisation aimed at Native Americans and Canadians, the various – and tragic – government reports and testimonies that denounced its disciplinary methods from the early 20th century, and then the pressure exerted on the Pope to ‘apologise’ to the Natives on behalf of the Catholic Church for the abuses and violence perpetrated in such schools. Between the end of March and the end of July 2022, Pope Francis, first receiving a Canadian indigenous delegation at the Vatican, and then going in person on a penitential journey on Canadian soil, met with First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities and faced much criticism, but also garnered support. At the end of his trip, he stated that the treatment of the Natives was ‘genocide’. The Pope’s words and his apology, analysed and weighed by the media and academia, certainly turned the spotlight on the serious human rights problems of Indigenous Peoples and the responsibilities of colonialism.

Writer and journalist, Raffaella Milandri is a human rights activist for Indigenous Peoples, an expert scholar of Native Americans and a graduate in Anthropology. She is an honorary member of the Four Winds Cherokee Tribe in Louisiana and the Crow Tribe in Montana. She has published over ten books, all on Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples, with a focus on human rights, in both a historical and contemporary context.