Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Report documents abuse and deaths of Native American children at government boarding schools from 1819 to 1969

The Sherman Indian School Cemetary in Riverside, Calif. (Riverside Press-Enterprise photo by Cindy Yamanaka)
"An initial investigation commissioned by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland cataloged some of the brutal conditions that Native American children endured at more than 400 boarding schools that the federal government forced them to attend between 1819 and 1969," Mark Walker reports for The New York Times. "The inquiry was an initial step, Haaland said, toward addressing the 'intergenerational trauma' that the policy left behind. The report, released today, found that more than 500 indigenous children had died at about 19 federal boarding schools, and said that number is expected to grow to thousands."

Haaland called for the report last June after the unmarked graves of nearly a thousand children were discovered at similar boarding schools in Canada. She vowed that Bureau of Indian Affairs officials would search the grounds of former schools in the U.S. and identify any remains.

It's not an abstract issue for Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member whose grandparents attended such schools. She said, "I came from ancestors who endured the horrors of the Indian boarding school assimilation policies carried out by the same department that I now lead," Axios reports.

The government forcibly took hundreds of thousands of children from their families to attend the schools. "In attempts to assimilate Native American children, the schools gave them English names, cut their hair and forbade them from speaking their languages and practicing their religions or cultural traditions," Walker reports. The government's other major goal with the schools was to claim Native American land by forcing the removal and relocation of their children.

While at the schools, children "suffered whippings, sexual abuse, manual labor and severe malnourishment," Chen reports. "Many children tried to escape but were found, brought back and punished, according to the report. The damage had long-term health effects."

"Haaland also announced plans for a yearlong, cross-country tour called The Road to Healing, during which survivors of the boarding school system could share their stories," Walker reports. The U.S. government has never before provided a forum for boarding-school survivors or their descendants to talk about their experiences at the schools.

No comments: