The recent discoveries of mass graves at several Canadian residential school sites have prompted discussions around the painful history of boarding schools for Native children in the United States. Beginning in the 19th century, children at the over 367 Native boarding schools run by government and religious officials in the US often faced abuse and neglect (Seattle Times). Many of these schools remained in operation until the 1990s, and around 70 Native boarding schools are still operating today. A 1928 report ordered by the Department of the Interior found that death rates for Indigenous children in boarding schools were around 6 times higher than the average death rate for other ethnicities (NARF- Meriam Report). A new initiative announced in June by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland aims to identify boarding schools, locate burial sites, and coordinate with tribes to repatriate the remains of the children buried in mass graves.
While the stories of boarding school survivors are often horrifying, we believe they are necessary to hear if we are to begin reconciling this history.
More resources on this topic listed below.
Pictured Above: Fort Lewis College, with origins as an "Indian Boarding School", display
Last week our Gen7 Youth Leadership group stayed at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. We visited a display on campus chronicling the history of the school - which started as a military fort and then became an "Indian Boarding School". The school acknowledges that the display is white-centered and has a plan to replace it in a way that more accurately reflects the real history.
The school offers free tuition to qualified Native American students which make up 26% of all degrees awarded at the school. "In 1911, the fort's property and buildings in Hesperus were transferred to the state of Colorado to establish an "agricultural and mechanic arts high school." That deed came with two conditions: that the land would be used for an educational institution, and was “to be maintained as an institution of learning to which Indian students will be admitted free of tuition and on an equality with white students” in perpetuity (Act of 61st Congress, 1911). Both conditions have been the Fort Lewis school's missions and guides over the past century". Source: https://www.fortlewis.edu/about-flc/history
Pictured Above: Chiricahua Apache students four months after arriving at the Carlisle Indian School.
Account from Lakota tribal member, Walter Little Moon, of his experiences at various boarding schools: https://listen.sdpb.org/post/boarding-school-memories-haunt-lakota-man?fbclid=IwAR02uWcBrwYM-50yMH4t-Yje6qvn8k2ZjP10BCydscVEk3aGbrUg6ebG63w
On the history and lasting effects of boarding schools in the United States:
“Death by Civilization” from Mary Annette Pember for the Atlantic
“American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many” Part 1 of a story from NPR
"American Indian School a Far Cry from the Past" Part 2 of a story from NPR
On the recent discoveries of mass graves at Kamloops and other residential school sites around Canada:
"How Some Children at the Kamloops Residential School Died"- Source: CBC News
On truth, reconciliation, reparations, and the recently announced federal initiative to investigate boarding schools:
“Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Announces Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to Shed Light on Dark History of the Boarding School System”
“U.S. Boarding Schools Were The Blueprint For Indigenous Family Separation In Canada” an interview and article from NPR
A list of books on this topic, primarily by Indigenous authors, can be found at this link:
Pictured above: students at the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial School in Michigan, circa 1910
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