US Identifies Over 50 Native American Boarding School Burial Sites | united states news

A first-of-its-kind federal study of Native American boarding schools that for more than a century sought to assimilate Native American children into white society identified more than 400 such schools that received U.S. government support. USA and more than 50 associated burial sites. , a figure that could grow substantially.

The report released Wednesday by the US Department of the Interior expands on the number of schools known to have operated for 150 years, beginning in the early 19th century and coinciding with the removal of tribes from ancestral lands.

The dark history of boarding schools—children were separated from their families, prohibited from speaking their Native American languages, and often mistreated—has been deeply felt through generations of families.

Many children never returned home. The department’s work focused on the burial sites and trying to identify the children and their tribal affiliations is far from complete.

“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies, including the intergenerational trauma caused by family separation and the cultural eradication inflicted on generations of children as young as four, are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. release. statement.

Haaland, who is Laguna, announced an initiative last June to investigate the legacy of boarding schools and uncover the truth about the role of the federal government. The 408 schools his agency identified operated in 37 states or territories, many in Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico.

The interior department acknowledged that the number of identified schools could change. The pandemic and budget constraints have hampered some investigations, said Bryan Newland, deputy secretary for Indian Affairs.

The US government directly ran some of the boarding schools. Catholic, Protestant and other churches operated others with federal funds, backed by US laws and policies to “civilize” Native Americans.

The report was prompted by the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on former residential school sites in Canada.

Haaland also announced a year-long tour for officials of the interior that will allow boarding school alumni from Native American tribes, Alaska Native villages and Native Hawaiian communities to share their stories as part of a permanent oral history collection.

“It is my priority to not only give a voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so that Indigenous Peoples can continue to grow and heal,” Haaland said.

Boarding school conditions varied across the US and Canada. While some former students reported positive experiences, the boys were subjected to military-style discipline and had their long hair cut short. Early curricula focused heavily on vocational skills, including housework for girls.

The interior department found at least 53 burial sites in or near US boarding schools, both marked and unmarked, and said the number of children who died in federal boarding schools could be in the thousands or tens of thousands. .

“Many of those children were buried in unmarked or poorly maintained burial sites far from their Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, Native Hawaiian community and families, often hundreds or even thousands of miles away,” says the report. report.

Tribal leaders have pressed the agency to make sure the children’s remains receive proper care and are returned to their tribes if they wish. The locations of the sites will not be identified, to prevent them from being disturbed, Newland said.

Accounting for the whereabouts of the children who died has been difficult because records were not always kept. Ground penetrating radar has been used in some places.

A second volume of the report will cover burial sites, as well as the federal government’s financial investment and the impacts of boarding schools on indigenous communities, the department said.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, which created an initial inventory of the schools, has said the interior work will be an important step for the US to consider its role in schools, but noted that the the agency is limited.

Later this week, a US House of Representatives subcommittee will hear testimony on a bill to create a truth and healing commission modeled on one in Canada. Various church groups are backing the legislation.

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