American boarding school investigation report released
The US Department of the Interior released its investigative report into the federal residential schools initiative on Wednesday. This is the first volume of the report and comes almost a year after the department announced a “comprehensive” review.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Deborah Parker who is the executive director of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and James LaBelle Sr., a boarding school survivor and first vice -chairman of the coalition’s board of directors, spoke at a press conference in Washington announcing the report’s findings.
“The consequences of federal policies on Indian boarding schools – including the intergenerational trauma caused by family separation and cultural eradication inflicted on generations of children as young as 4 years old – are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Haaland said. in a press release. “We continue to see evidence of this attempted forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples in the disparities communities face. It is my priority not only to give voice to survivors and descendants of federal residential school policies, but also to address the lasting legacy of these policies so that Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal.
Newland dominated 100 page reportwhich includes historical records of boarding school locations and names, as well as the first official list of burial sites.
The results show that from 1819 to 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools in 37 states, some territories at the time, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven schools in Hawai’i. Some of these schools operated at multiple sites. The list includes religious mission schools that received federal support, however, government funding sources were complex, therefore all religious schools receiving federal, Indian trust and treaty funds are likely not included . The final list of Indian boarding schools will surely grow as the investigation continues. For example, the number of Catholic Indian boarding schools receiving direct funding is at least 113 according to the records of the Office of Catholic Indian Missions.
About 50% of federal Indian boarding schools may have received support or involvement from religious institutions or organizations, including funding, infrastructure and staff, Newland said.
The federal government sometimes paid them on a per capita basis to get the kids into the schools.
About 53 different schools had been identified with marked or unmarked burial sites. Specific locations of burial grounds will not be vacated to protect against grave robbery, vandalism and other desecration. The ministry expects the number to increase as the investigation continues.
In June 2021, Haaland announcement an interior inquiry into federal Indian boarding schools to make “a comprehensive examination of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies” as early as the 19th century.
She said the initiative was created after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves of Indigenous children by the Canadian Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in May 2021.
The first volume of the report highlights some of the difficult conditions children endured in schools. The native names of the children were replaced by English names; the children’s hair was cut; the use of their indigenous languages, religions and cultural practices has been discouraged or prevented; and children were organized into units to perform military drills.
The report cites the findings of the 1928 Meriam Report in which the Interior “frankly and unequivocally acknowledged that the arrangements for the care of Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate”.
Examples included descriptions of accommodation at some boarding schools such as White Earth Boarding School in Minnesota where two children slept in one bed, Kickapoo Boarding School in Kansas where three children shared a bed, and Rainy Mountain Boarding School in Oklahoma where, “beds pushed together so closely to prevent passage between them and each bed has two or more occupants.
The 1969 Kennedy Report, cited in the Department’s investigation, noted that rampant physical, sexual, and emotional abuse: disease; malnutrition; overcrowding and lack of health care in Indian boarding schools are well documented.
He also found schools focused on “manual labor and job skills that left Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian graduates with job options often unrelated to America’s industrial economy, further disrupting economies. tribal”.
Federal boarding schools began with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819 when the government enacted laws and policies to establish and support Indian boarding schools. For more than 150 years, Indigenous children were removed from their communities and forced into assimilation-oriented boarding schools. An unknown number of privately and government-funded religious Indian boarding schools predate the Civilization Act by at least 100 years.
Diminished homeland and wealth
In a major finding, the report documents the use of tribal trust and treaty funds for the federal boarding school system as well as mission schools run by religious institutions and organizations. Although the total amount of these funds used to fund schools directly is unknown, according to a survey by Indian Country Today, over $30 million in today’s dollars were siphoned off for a period of nine years by Catholic schools alone.
The United States has also set aside tracts of Indigenous lands for the use of religious institutions and organizations. According to a ongoing investigation by Indian Country Today, much of this land may still be held by churches.
Indeed, the relationship between the major religious denominations and the federal government regarding Indian mission schools is described as “an unprecedented delegation of power to church bodies which have been given the right to appoint new officers, conduct educational activities and others on the reserves.
While the report makes little mention of accountability for religious organizations that operated boarding schools, it does indicate that non-federal entities will receive support to release their records associated with the schools.
Parker said the organization’s collaboration with the Interior found 89 additional boarding schools that received no federal funding.
As part of the initiative and in response to the report’s recommendations, Haaland announced the launch of “The Road to Healing” year-long tour. This will be a cross-country tour for residential school survivors to share their stories, help connect communities with trauma-informed support, and collect ongoing oral history.
The report also mentions the 2019 Running Bear watershed studies, funded by the National Institute of Health. This research contains the first medical studies to systematically and quantitatively show that the experience of the Indian residential school system continues to impact the current health of survivors of adult residential schools.
Newland cited the need for further investigation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting federal facility closures, which has affected obtaining and reviewing documents and the limited funds of the ministry at that time.
The second volume will be aided by a $7 million investment from Congress through fiscal year 2022. Newland recommended that it include a list of marked and unmarked burial sites at federal Indian boarding schools – with names, the ages, tribal affiliations of the children at these locations—an approximation of the total amount of federal funding used to support the residential school system and to further probe the impacts on Indigenous communities. Additionally, the department wishes to approximate the total number of children who have attended boarding schools.
“This report provides us with an opportunity to reorient federal policies to support the revitalization of tribal languages and cultural practices to counter nearly two centuries of federal policies aimed at their destruction,” Newland said in a statement. “Together, we can help start a process of healing for Indian Country, the Native Hawaiian community, and across the United States, from the Alaskan tundra to the Florida Everglades, and everywhere in between.”
Ability to submit stories
On Thursday, members of Congress held a audience at 1 p.m. ET, for the bill “Truth and Healing Commission on the Policies of Indian Residential Schools in the United States.” Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, is the primary sponsor of the bill.
The National Boarding School Healing Coalition is asking people who attended boarding school or are descendants of a boarder to submit their written testimonies to the House Committee on Natural Resources by May 26. Email submissions to [email protected] and CC NABS to [email protected]
The National Boarding School Healing Coalition has a template available to use here.
Mary Annette Pember of ICT contributed to this report.
This story was originally posted by Indian country today and is republished here with permission.