12-year Old Riley McMillan Speaks to Federal Indian Law Class

Photograph: Riley McMillanRiley McMillan, 12-year old daughter of Washburn University School of Law professor Lori McMillan, presented to Dean Carla Pratt and Adjunct Professor Blake Follis' Federal Indian Law class on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Riley is believed to be the youngest person to speak to a Washburn Law class.

During her presentation, "Indian Residential Schools: Assimilation and Genocide," Riley discussed how Indian schools were created to the 1800s to further the assimilation of Native Americans. In many cases, deception and force were used to coerce Indian children to attend the schools. The students' days were tightly packed from early morning until late at night, providing little free time. Skills, rather than academics, was the focus of instruction resulting in the children being prepared for manual labor or domestic work. The stated goal was to "kill the Indian and save the man." Many schools were very overcrowded, often exceeding capacity by forty percent. Punishment was frequent and sickness and death were common as a result of malnourishment, poor living conditions, and disease. These schools resulted in intergenerational trauma and had many short-term and long-term impacts such as loss of land, addiction, violence, abuse, and death in the Indian communities.

Riley concluded her presentation by observing that it is difficult to say much that is positive about the residential schools because the schools could be considered a tool for genocide.

Watch a recording of Riley McMillan's presentation (17:13).