The Secretary of the Interior launches an investigation into U.S. practices over 150 years to end the tribal identity and culture of Native Americans.
The federal government will investigate its past oversight of Native American boarding schools and work to “discover the truth about the loss of human lives and the lasting consequences” of institutions, which over the decades have forced hundreds of thousands of children from their families and communities. , U.S. Home Secretary Deb Haaland announced Tuesday.
Unprecedented work will include collecting and reviewing decades of records to identify past boarding schools, locate known and possible burial sites in or near these schools, and discover students ’tribal names and affiliations, he said.
“To address the intergenerational impact of Indian boarding schools and promote spiritual and emotional healing in our communities, we need to shed light on the traumas that are not talked about in the past no matter how much,” Haaland said.
A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe of New Mexico and the first Native American to serve as cabinet secretary, Haaland outlined the initiative as he addressed members of the National Congress of American Indians during the group’s half-year conference.
He said the process will be long, difficult and painful and will not undo the frustration and loss that many families suffer.
Beginning with the Indian Civilizations Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and policies to establish and support Indian boarding schools across the nation. For more than 150 years, indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into internment centers.
Haaland spoke about the federal government’s attempt to eliminate tribal identity, language and culture and how this past has continued to manifest itself through long-standing trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, premature deaths, disorders mental and substance abuse.
He recent discovery of child remains buried in the site of Canada’s largest former Indigenous residential school has increased interest in this legacy in both Canada and the US.
In Canada, more than 150,000 Children of the first nations they were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and were not allowed to speak their languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused and up to 6,000 are said to have died.
After reading about it unmarked pits in Canada, Haaland told the story of his own family in a recent opinion piece published by the Washington Post.
Haaland wrote that it is “a product of these horrible policies of assimilation” and explained how his “maternal grandparents were stolen from their families” at the age of eight.
He cited statistics from the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, which reported that in 1926, more than 80 percent of school-age Indigenous children attended boarding schools run by the federal government or religious organizations. In addition to providing resources and raising awareness, the coalition has been working to gather additional research on American boarding schools and the deaths that many say are sorely lacking.
Interior Department officials said that in addition to trying to shed more light on the loss of life to boarders, they will work to protect the burial sites associated with schools and consult with tribes on how to do better. respecting families and communities.
As part of the initiative, a final report from the agency’s staff will be due on April 1, 2022.
Haaland during his speech told the story of his grandmother loaded on a train with other children from his village and sent to the boarding school. He said many families have been harassed for too long by the “dark history” of these institutions and that the agency has a responsibility to reclaim that history.
“We need to find out the truth about the loss of human lives and the lasting consequences of these schools,” he said.