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Sister Lynn Marie: Remembering Is Good Trouble. Acknowledging Our Errors Is Greatness.

Sister Lynn Marie Welbig testified to House Education yesterday against House Bill 1012 on behalf of the Presentation Sisters, who she said oppose the state’s purported effort to ban “critical race theory“. HB 1012 now applies only to higher education and not classroom content, but her critique applies equally well to HB 1337 which carries the same language and dubious prohibitions on social studies teaching that Sister Lynn Marie critiqued before House Education.

Sister Lynn Marie’s testimony runs from timestamp 31:55 to 37:25 in SDPB’s audio of Wednesday morning’s House Education hearing. For the record, I transcribe her testimony here in full.

Sister Lynn Marie Welbig, Order of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Sister Lynn Marie Welbig, Order of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I taught history and social studies to junior high kids for over twenty years, and I’ve tried to think through and reconstruct how I could teach these subjects now with any true meaning and not become entangled in House Bill 1012.…Apparently, students should not “feel discomfort”—and I’m quoting here—not “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any form of psychological distress” because of their national origin or race, and the bill lists other characteristics as well.

I believe we teach history and social studies not just to lay out lifeless facts. I think we want our students to become what I would call conscientious citizens who understand the meanings behind the history. That’s what social studies is. It’s the study of the social impact of history.

…Let’s say I’m teaching the Wounded Knee Massacre. How could an adolescent who’s in that emotionally charged time anyway… not feel discomfort or anguish, maybe even a little guilt when hearing the story of the Wounded Knee Massacre, regardless of their race or their ethnicity? They’re a human being.

House Bill 1012 says that I’m in trouble if I compel the students to feel these emotions. Well, as we study these stories, am I compelling them to have feelings if they have them? Am I suggesting they have feelings? Or should I be instructing them at the outset not to feel as we read or as they listen?

So, an example: Henry goes home tonight and says, “Sister Lynn Marie made me feel guilty over what the white men did to the Indian women and kids at Wounded Knee.” Did I compel them—did I compel them to feel guilty? Who’s to say?

We study World War Two, which includes the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which ended the war with Japan, yes, but the history includes the facts that hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were burned to death or scarred for the rest of their lives by this decision. What if kids feel anguish over this? Have I compelled them to feel anguish? I think most people could not help but feel anguish over this story. Have I broken the law by teaching it?

What if I taught the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was even more lynching of Negro men and women? It even escalated after that declaration of their freedom. Dare the student feel anguish? Have I compelled them to feel anguish? Who’s to judge? Will I be arrested?

Is it the intention of the drivers of this bill to bleach all meaning and social responsibility and even compassion out of our history and our social studies?

A week or so ago I heard on the news that several survivors of the Holocaust made their way back to the prison camp, that place… crematorium that they somehow survived 75 years ago…. The reporter asked them why they were revisiting this place of, well, I guess it’s a place of horror for them, for anybody.

Well, the wrinkled old woman replied, “So that we remember. So that we remember and never, never do something like this again.”

Are we wanting to form young adults who do not remember? Remembering is part of wisdom. It’s good trouble, as the late John Lewis often said. Remembering these kinds of things make good trouble.

Now America is a great place, it’s a good place, as Dr. Ben Carson said a few minutes ago. And it is great for all the good it has done and continues to do. But it’s also great when it acknowledges the errors it has made, not to encourage hate, but to work for reconciliation. House Bill 1012 seems to compel teachers to take the meaning out of history.

Ladies and gentlemen, this bill is wrong. It’s wrong for the students and wrong for the teachers and wrong for a democratic, socially responsible school or state. Please act with wisdom and vote no on House Bill 1012 [emphasis mine; Sister Lynn Marie Welbig, testimony to House Education against House Bill 1012, transcribed from SDPB audio, 2022.02.09].


  1. Eve Fisher 2022-02-10 08:57

    God Bless Sister Lynn Marie Welbig. She is absolutely right.

  2. larry kurtz 2022-02-10 08:58

    Expect Sister Lynn to be disciplined by the Sioux Falls Diocese and its lord, Don DeGrood.

  3. cibvet 2022-02-10 09:40

    Absolutely!! Bleach or white wash is a good words for what banning CRT is trying to do. Present white people in the best possible
    light so we can continue with the racial inequities.

  4. All Mammal 2022-02-10 09:50

    What intelligent person not in the gainful employ of Satan can deny this fine educator’s plea? Her ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ if you will, is undeniable. This subject I found difficult to argue without something offensive surfacing. After several revisions, this is the most toned down I could muster after yesterday’s denial of the Flag Song played at graduation ceremonies in our state. Then there was the denial to raise the tribes’ flags in our state capitol. Seriously. Removal of the word scalp from state geographical names? Heck no! Keep all the offensive, sick mascot names too. Might as well continue using cyanide to mine in the state. Check. Keep letting cho-mo cops use chokeholds on Natives. Certainly. Don’t forget they also denied use of tribal ID to register to vote..

    With no disrespect intended-Please, for the love of manitee! Try to get it through your dome nugget that non-pale, stale, and male people living alongside you, in shared time and space, are absolutely no less:
    •True American
    •Raising families with Good South Dakota
    •Concerned Citizens
    •Willing to Help Neighbors, Community, and
    Than you!!!!

    When you see, hear, or smell different; don’t immediately condemn it as godless usurpers coming to hungrily feed upon your children’s christian souls. Really. Strange does not mean wrong and the decline of your healthy and strong and prosperous America the Beautiful.

    We cannot all resemble your imprinted image of entitled people whom you consider god’s exclusive purpose. I wish you sanctimonious, seasoning and spice adverse folks notice that you are not the majority so who are you to throw a fit when your South Dakota heritage and tradition and success and delusion isn’t even close to the more common South Dakota experience?

    Pardon the shamelessness of yet another request to further your understanding. I strongly urge you to catch the flick, The Platform. It is an awarded independent film from Spain. You needn’t fret; its seamlessly dubbed over in English. I trust you will find it enlightening as well.

    And one last plea is for you to consider this: one reason most people you despise want to change your establishment is because the establishment you are so proud of and have fought to keep exactly the same for so long-SUCKS!

    Giving Everyone the same opportunity and true-blue American-as-apple-pie status does not detract anything from any fellow freedom defending Americans. You will still be privileged and entitled and fair complected and all that if you came up off it some, don’t worry. Quit being so stingy because there is always going to have to be enough to go around(:

    You can only try to separate a man from his soul for so long before you wind up strengthening his and losing your own.

    So please stop all that noise. It is not becoming of leaders in your position. Go on, give it a try and I promise the divinity of oneness will be worthwhile. Thanks.

  5. All Mammal 2022-02-10 10:03

    I forgot to cite that second to last paragraph. -Brother Ali from Uncle Sam Goddamn.

  6. Vi Kingman 2022-02-10 10:11

    Well said.

  7. Porter Lansing 2022-02-10 13:58

    Lest we forget, there are teenagers who, when taught these emotionally sensitive historical events, feel nothing.
    Their self-consumption is so strong another’s painful history means nothing, evokes nothing, and resonates nothing.
    I’m told by those close to Kristi Arnold’s former teachers, she was one of those.
    That’s no doubt why she doesn’t want other teenagers to be exposed to accurate history.
    Because she felt different, like an outsider, and vowed revenge on the teachers who diminished her “popularity”.

  8. JNNelsen 2022-02-10 14:11

    good stuff, thanks Sister

  9. ABC 2022-02-10 14:28

    Republicans will feel discomfort and anxiety all the time, as they lose 25 elections in a row, 2022 to 2072.

    Do you guys have a plan for that happening?

    Maybe the High Wages Party will !

  10. Arlo Blundt 2022-02-10 15:41

    Don’t mess with the Nuns. They have no anxiety speaking truth to power as they are the voice of truth and fidelity in a corrupt church. The Legislative Committee is no more daunting than the Church Hierarchy. Legislators should listen closely and follow the wisdom of Sister Lynn Marie. By the way, Sister Lynn Marie cannot be disciplined by the Diocese. Orders of Nuns are independently governed by the Order, itself. She obviously had approval of the Order to testify. The Nuns don’t kow tow to the Bishop in matters of this kind.

  11. Mark Anderson 2022-02-10 19:27

    But, but, those poor little boys and girls…must they learn about our minor troubles? Your snow white Snow Queen will tell them the truth in her own words.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-02-12 08:50

    I am always surprised at how often our legislators diverge from the straightforward Christian teachings and advocacy that the Presentation Sisters bring to them.

    I am also curious why there aren’t more South Dakota Christians in and out of the Legislature who publicly uphold these Christian principles of truth and justice. Where is the disconnect between the Gospel of the Sisters, who have dedicated their lives to putting their faith into action in South Dakota, and so many other “Christians” who trumpet their godliness at the Capitol but don’t seem to put Jesus’s specific teachings into daily practice?

  13. Cathy B 2022-03-13 16:06

    The saddest thing is that, despite the wisdom of Sister Lynn Marie’s testimony, HB1012 actually passed both houses of the legislature and has now(March 10) awaits the governor’s signature.

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