by Krysta Henry ’22
Krysta Henry is a member of the class of 2022. She shares her college essay with us as we pay tribute to the rich ancestries and diverse cultures of Native Americans, not only during Native American History Month but all throughout the year.
ʔi, Krysta Henry tsi dsadʔ tul’al čəd Dxʷlilap (hello, my name is Krysta Henry and I am from Tulalip). I am the 7th generation descendant of the First Nations people. I am proud to be a Tulalip Tribal member. I am number 4,127 of roughly 6,000 members. As I introduce myself in Lushootseed, I can feel the presence of my ancestors and be the voice for the voiceless elders and children who have been neglected and abused since 1492.
My lineage is full of trauma, beauty, and strength. After surviving the attempted genocide of Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1492, the year 1831 approached, the start of Indian Residential Schools. Within these schools, Native children aged from 3-18 years were abused in unimaginable ways. The purpose of the residential schools was to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man”- General Richard H. Pratt. To deliver on this message, Catholic priests and people would take the Native children from their homes;no questions were to be asked by the parents or the children. Upon the arrival of the Catholic-run Residential schools, the children were stripped of their clothing, which was then burned as they were put into modern French/European fashion. After they were dressed in new attire, their hair was forcibly cut. For my Native culture, our hair is sacred to us. it represents our ancestors who survived the trauma so we could continue to live. While attending these schools, Natives were starved, dehydrated, beaten, sexually abused, and tortured mentally and physically. Doing acts such as speaking their Native language, practicing Native traditions, bedwetting, and looking at the opposite sex provoked such abuse. Over 150,000 Native children attended these schools and over 6,000 died within them.
The effects of these schools have left Natives with an unbearable burden of pain and suffering. People outside of tribal nations don’t realize that these schools weren’t formed hundreds of years ago. For example, my great-grandmother, Etta Frances Jones, attended the Tulalip Residential School, which started in 1857 and ended in 1932. That is only a two-generation gap between me and her. Even so, my great-grandmother’s children went to those schools, so my grandma’s siblings were also attendants and now survivors. The heartbreaking part is that they have never shared any of their experiences within these schools. When my great-grandma passed in 2017, she was 86 years old. She passed with all her stories in her, not a single one of her 10 kids, or 150+ great/grandchildren know what happened to her. This speaks volumes about how much abuse was going on. My great-grandma is one of the hundreds of thousands of elders who are unable to speak about the horrors of residential school.
So I find myself here, at Archbishop Murphy, attempting to make that change. I’m only a few months into senior year and already I have educated over 400 students about the history of residential schools. I am proud to be Native American, and I am proud to be Tulalip. I strive to continue being the voice for the voiceless children who died in those schools, the voice for my ancestors, the voice for the community members who are unable to heal. I am determined to raise awareness of the trauma of Native Americans. I have spent countless hours making posters, writing and presenting my heritage, relearning my language and culture, and providing my peers with more knowledge on Native history.
My tribe is full of resilience, as am I. Within my immediate family, my mother is the only one to have completed college at the age of 34. Being the first in my family to go to college straight from high school would signal that I’m on a successful path. All I could ever want is to make my elders and ancestors proud. That starts with me going to college, getting a degree, and sharing our history with everyone I meet.