Published on May 11, 2022
Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) released its historic Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report, which serves as a formal investigation into federal Indian boarding school policy. The report identified 408 federally-run Indian boarding schools and discovered more than 500 American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) or Native Hawaiian child deaths at these institutions. These initial findings are considered preliminary and final numbers are expected to increase upon further investigation.
Major findings in the report include:
- The U.S. government operated or supported at least 408 Indian boarding schools across the country alongside more than 1,000 other federal and non-federal institutions intended for identity alteration, with goals of territorial dispossession and, later, forced assimilation. The schools used both the manual labor of children and tribal trust accounts to supplement federal funding in order to run these schools.
- The identification of marked and unmarked burial sites on the grounds of 53 schools. The initial analysis has found over 500 AI/AN and Native Hawaiian child deaths. The report outlines and expects both the number of deaths and burial sites to increase as the investigation continues.
In an official letter accompanying the report, DOI Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland called for the reorientation of federal policy to support language and cultural revitalization in tribal communities to counteract nearly two centuries worth of policies aimed at the destruction of both.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) First Vice President Mark Macarro indicated the long-awaited report was a signal of progress toward justice and healing for past and future generations.
“Today is a somber but important day as we scratch the surface of the traumatic legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies,” said Macarro. “The horrific abuse, neglect, starvation, and forced assimilation of Native children combined with the destruction of our tribal languages cannot be ignored. With respect to boarding schools, implementing federal policy is not an issue of the past as the stark reality of generational trauma lives on today. While the report findings mark a new era of accountability by the federal government, there is still much truth, justice, and reconciliation needed in our communities.”
The report was first announced at the NCAI 2021 Mid Year Conference and came on the heels of the discovery of the remains of 215 Native children at the Kamloops Residential School in Canada in May 2021. That discovery ignited public awareness and bolstered the call for a federal investigation of Indian boarding schools in the United States.
The U.S. Department of the Interior is scheduled to provide an agency update at NCAI’s upcoming 2022 Mid Year Conference & Marketplace taking place on June 12-16, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska.
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the United States. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies. NCAI promotes an understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people, and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.
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