Feds: 53 burial sites discovered in former Indian boarding schools
Arizona was home to 47 such schools, the second largest of any US state.
WASHINGTON, DC, United States — The federal government on Wednesday acknowledged for the first time the “heartbreaking and undeniable” history of Indian boarding schools across the United States that forced the assimilation of Indigenous peoples.
Deb Haalandinterior secretary and first native to the post, tearfully told a news conference Wednesday that the 408 institutions identified by her team were being used to “exterminate and eradicate” natives.
“My grandparents at age 8 were taken away from home,” Haaland said of her own experience with Indian boarding schools. “Each of these children is a missing member of the family.”
Haaland led the first government inquiry into the history of these schools. The first part of the report was released on Wednesday and identifies not only the schools, but also that 53 marked and unmarked burial sites have been identified in those schools.
Haaland said the department expects the number of burial sites to increase.
The year-long investigation comes after hundreds of bodies of Indigenous children, some as young as 3, were found in similar schools across Canada.
ORIGINAL STORY: Report: Over 600 bodies found in Indigenous school in Canada
Arizona was home to 47 such schools, the second of any US state. Most were in the northern part of the state, but one of the oldest schools was in Phoenix.
The Phoenix Indian School was located on the property now known as Steel Indian School Park at Central Avenue and Indian School Road in downtown Phoenix.
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The locations of the burial sites will not be made public, the report says, “in order to protect against well-documented grave theft, vandalism and other disturbances of Indian burial sites.”
Inconsistent federal reporting of child deaths at residential schools, including the number and cause or circumstances of death, and burial locations made investigation difficult, the report said.
With support from the Biden administration, Haaland said she would visit former school sites to promote spiritual and emotional healing and allow natives to come forward and share their stories.
“It’s not new to a lot of us Indigenous people,” Haaland said of the generational trauma seen in Indigenous families to this day. “[We’re] shine a bright and undeniable spotlight…it’s an important step in addressing the facts and consequences of these schools.”
Haaland added during Wednesday’s emotional press conference that the report was produced by the department’s Indigenous staff, many of whom have had to overcome their own institutional trauma.
The 100-page report lacks specific details about the schools, but provides a general overview of the boarding school system and the lives of so many Indigenous children, where the funding came from and how these schools were used by the federal government. to acquire land.
- From 1819 to 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools in 37 states or territories, including 21 schools in Alaska and 7 schools in Hawaii.
- Beginning with President George Washington, the stated policy of the federal government was to replace Indian culture. It was considered “advisable” as the cheapest and safest way to subjugate the natives, provide safe habitat for the white inhabitants of the country, help white people acquire desirable land, and change the Indian economy so that they settle for less land.
- Approximately 50% of Federal Indian Residential Schools had the support or involvement of a religious institution or organization.
- The federal government sometimes paid religious institutions and organizations on a per capita basis for Indian children to enter the federal Indian boarding schools that these institutions and groups of organizations operated.
- Schools deployed systematic weaponization and identity-altering methodologies to attempt to assimilate Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children through education, including renaming Indian children from Indian names to Indian names. English, cutting hair, prohibiting the use of languages, religions, and cultural practices; and organize children into units to perform military drills.
- The punishment included solitary confinement; flogging; withhold food; whip; slaps; and handcuffs.
- The federal government has not provided a forum or opportunity for survivors or descendants of survivors of federal residential schools, or their families, to voluntarily detail their experiences in the federal residential school system.
“This report provides us with an opportunity to reorient federal policies to support the revitalization of tribal languages and cultural practices to counter nearly two centuries of federal policies aimed at their destruction,” said the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Inside Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland.
“Together, we can help start a process of healing for Indian Country, the Native Hawaiian community, and across the United States, from the Alaskan tundra to the Florida Everglades, and everywhere in between.”
Newland, who authored the report, outlined eight steps to move the initiative forward:
1. Pursue full investigation, including the location of marked and unmarked burial sites associated with a particular Indian boarding school facility or site, which can then be used to assist in locating unidentified remains of Indian children , Indian prisoners of war and freedmen from the five civilizations. Tribes.
2. Identity of Surviving Federal Indian Residents. Develop a voluntary identification system for survivor participants who have become adults, including communication methodologies.
3. Document the experiences of participants in federal residential schools. Develop a platform for now-adult Federal Indian Residents and their descendants to formally document their historical stories and experiences, and understand current impacts such as health status, including substance abuse and violence.
4. Support the protection, preservation, restoration and co-management of sites throughout the federal Indian residential school system where the federal government has jurisdiction over a site.
5. Develop a specific repository of Federal records involving the Federal Indian Residential Schools system at the Department of Interior Library to preserve centralized Federal expertise on the Federal Indian Residential Schools system.
6. Identify and engage other federal agencies to support the Federal Indian Residential Schools Initiative, including those that monitor all records involving the federal Indian residential school system or that provide health care to American Indians, Native Americans of Alaska and Native Hawaiians, including for the provision of mental health services to students attending schools operated and funded by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).
7. Support non-federal entities that can independently publish documents under their control. To make the federal investigation more thorough and accurate, support non-federal entities, such as states and religious institutions and organizations, including those that have received federal funding to operate federal Indian boarding schools, that can independently release records relating to the Federal Indian Boarding School. school system such as those covering the removal of Indian children and the provision of health care services to Indians, including at military installations.
8. Support Congressional action involving the following policies: • NAGPRA.
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