WRIC - ABC 8 [Richmond VA]
May 11, 2022
By Alexandra Limon
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs released the findings of an investigation of the U.S. Government’s forced assimilation of indigenous people.
Records show that between 1819 and 1969, the U.S. Government operated or supported 408 boarding schools in 37 states and territories. About half of those schools were also funded or run by religious institutions.
“Children were induced or compelled by the federal government to be brought to these schools,” said Brian Newland, the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs. “We’ve identified 53 marked or unmarked burial sites and cemeteries for Indian children across the system, with more site discoveries expected.”
The schools operated in military-like conditions and banned children from using their native languages and cultural practices.
“When my maternal grandparents were only eight years old, they were stolen from their parent’s culture and communities and forced to live in boarding schools until the age of 13. Many children like them never made it back to their home,” Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland said.
The report says the schools focused on vocational training and manual labor. Haaland says the traumatic system created generational consequences, including poverty and loss of wealth, mental health disorders and substance abuse.
The Department of the Interior is asking for more funding for the ongoing investigation. It’s also calling for the federal government to do more to help revitalize native communities and languages.