Interior looks into the legacy of Native boarding schools

The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative aims to shed light on the grim history of residential Indian boarding schools in the U.S.


In June, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced plans for the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

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The residential boarding schools of the early 19th and mid-20th century left a brutal legacy: Native children were taken from homes, abused, forced to assimilate and used as leverage against tribes who resisted U.S. expansion(“The U.S. stole generations of Indigenous children to open the West,” 10/14/19). Their descendants have long demanded transparency about why so many died at government and church-run schools like the Carlisle Boarding School, and why their remains were not returned to their tribes.

In June, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) announced plans for the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a first-of-its-kind “comprehensive review” of the U.S. government’s history of separating Native children from their families and forcing them into boarding schools. It will investigate Interior’s records, identify known and likely burial sites, and present a final report in April 2022. The discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a former school in Canada prompted the department to examine the United States’ own genocidal past.

Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email us at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor. Follow @annavtoriasmith

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