Gabriel Pietrorazio is a national award-winning journalist who closely covers Indigenous affairs, food and agriculture, politics, as well as crime and justice. He earned a master’s degree from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park. Follow him @GabePietrorazio.

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‘It Came Back to Haunt Them’

by Gabriel Pietrorazio 08-02-2023
The Seneca Nation works to heal the wounds inflicted by a Presbyterian-run residential school.
An old black-and-white photo of students and teachers sitting and standing on the steps of the Thomas Indian School building in the 1890s.

Photograph from the New York State Archives

WHEN POPE FRANCIS visited Canada in July 2022, he said he was “deeply sorry” for the abuses inflicted upon peoples from First Nations by more than a century of Catholic-run residential schools. Francis decried the ways “many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples,” which resulted in “cultural destruction and forced assimilation.”

To his credit, the pontiff acknowledged that his apology was not “the end of the matter,” and that serious investigation of what was perpetrated and enabled by the church was necessary for the survivors of the schools “to experience healing from the traumas they suffered.”

In the United States, the Seneca Nation is paving a path toward that healing process in their homelands, in particular from harm caused by a Presbyterian-run residential school.

A month after the pope’s apology, Matthew Pagels, then-president of the Seneca Nation — which historically inhabited territory throughout the Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley regions of New York — announced a new initiative to compile and catalog a list of residential school attendees.

To lead the effort, Pagels tapped Sharon Francis, a member of the Wolf Clan of the Seneca Nation and program coordinator at the Seneca Nation crime victims unit. Her passion, she said, is helping her communities heal from personal, intergenerational, and historical traumas.

Why Hasn’t the Pope Denounced the Doctrine of Discovery?

by Gabriel Pietrorazio 10-03-2022

Pope Francis receives a gift from Indigenous people during a meeting with Indigenous peoples and members of the Parish Community of Sacred Heart in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada July 25, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane.

Pope Francis’ July visit to the First Nations in Canada has rekindled conversations about the Catholic Church’s responsibility in blessing and legitimizing the colonization of Indigenous homelands.

How an Interfaith Model Helped Local Coalition End Columbus Day

by Gabriel Pietrorazio 06-15-2022

Members and allies of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee celebrate on the front steps of Rochester City Hall with the Haudenosaunee Hiawatha Belt flag after the Rochester City Council unanimously passed a resolution to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day on June 14, 2022. Courtesy/Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee

Those inside Rochester, N.Y.’s city hall let out a roaring round of applause after nine council members unanimously approved a resolution to end its celebration of Columbus Day and replace it with a commemoration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day each October.