Type to search

Education Features

Cardinal O’Hara visit teaches truth, reconciliation with Native culture


TONAWANDA — This past summer, Pope Francis traveled to Canada to recognize and apologize for the Catholic Church’s part in the formation of Indigenous residential schools.

Cardinal O’Hara High School senior Kolton Muldowney (front right), takes part in a mixer game with a student from Akron High School during a visit to the school to learn about Native American culture and history. (Photo courtesy of Cardinal O’Hara High School)

This apology was an acknowledgement that Native children were forcibly separated from their families in an effort to assimilate them into Christian society which ultimately led to horrible abuses and atrocities against Native children.

Inspired by Pope Francis’ apology, a group of 20 student ambassadors from Cardinal O’Hara High School with Principal Joleen Dimitroff visited Akron Central School District to learn more about this time in history and how it impacted the life of the Indigenous community.

The student population in Akron schools is 14 percent Native American. Akron’s Native American teachers presented an insightful historical perspective and provided interactive activities that afforded the Cardinal O’Hara students a glimpse into the very prideful Native American culture established at Akron.

O’Hara students were also treated to Native dances and a delicious traditional lunch. Akron’s Homecoming festivities this year centered around an international initiative called Every Child Matters. This initiative brings attention to the plight of a Native child, Phyllis, who upon entering a mission school, was stripped of her favorite orange shirt that was given to her by her grandmother in an attempt to Christianize her.

To show solidarity to her journey, O’Hara students joined Akron students in wearing orange Every Child Matters shirts at the Akron vs. O’Hara football game on Sept. 30.

The students agreed that they learned a great deal about Native American culture and diversity that they will share at O’Hara, Dimitroff said.