Interior identifies hundreds of Native American boarding schools and graves

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  • Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children attending federal residential schools aimed at assimilation.
  • A new report from inside marks the United States’ first comprehensive attempt to document schools.
  • The report found that 19 schools accounted for 500 student deaths, a number that is expected to rise.

More than 500 students have died while attending one of 408 boarding schools for Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children that were run or supported by the U.S. government in the 19th and 20th centuries, according to a Department of Health report. ‘Interior published on Wednesday.

The report marked the first time the U.S. government attempted to comprehensively study the extent and impact of boarding schools, which aimed to assimilate Indigenous children into white society. Schools typically banned students from speaking their native language or practicing their religion, forced them to cut their hair and gave them “white” names, among other oppressive practices, Insider previously reported.

The survey report found that 408 schools operated in 37 states from 1819 to 1969 and were attended by hundreds of thousands of native children. Burial sites have been identified at 53 different schools, although the department said in a statement it expects more to be uncovered as the investigation continues. Nineteen boarding schools have caused the deaths of more than 500 children, a number that is also expected to rise, according to the report.

The report also found that about half of federally run schools may have received support from religious institutions, including several Christian churches.

Insider has previously spoken with Indigenous leaders and historians about how Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools away from reservations in an effort to completely cut them off from their cultures. School students were often malnourished, abused and forced to do manual labor, according to the Interior’s findings also set out in its report.

“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,” the Secretary told Interior Deb Haaland in a statement. .

“We continue to see evidence of this attempted forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples in the disparities that communities face,” she said, adding that she also hopes to address “the enduring legacy of these policies so that Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal.”

Indigenous leaders and activists have long called for an official government inquiry into the schools. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet member, announced the inquiry last year following the discovery of unmarked graves at Canadian boarding schools for First Nations children.

The Interior said in a statement that the report was only the first part of its investigation. Next steps include creating a list of all marked and unmarked burial sites, approximating the amount of federal funding that has flowed to the boarding school system, and researching the legacy impacts of boarding schools on Indigenous communities today. today.

Have a current boarding school tip or personal story to share? Contact this reporter at [email protected].

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