US Interior to Release Report on Native Boarding Schools

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The U.S. Department of the Interior says it will release a report on Wednesday that will begin to uncover the truth about the federal government’s past oversight of Native American boarding schools.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland announced an initiative last June to investigate the troubled legacy of boarding schools, which the government created and supported for decades. Indigenous children were routinely removed from their communities and forced into schools that sought to strip them of their language and culture.

Catholic, Protestant, and other churches also ran some of the schools, supported by American laws and policies.

The Interior report was prompted by the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in Canada that brought back painful memories to Indigenous communities. Haaland said his agency’s report will identify former schools, locate known and possible burial sites in or near those schools, and uncover students’ names and tribal affiliations.

The first volume of the report will be released on Wednesday. The Interior Ministry did not specify the number of volumes produced.

At least 367 boarding schools for Native Americans were operating in the United States, including many in Oklahoma where tribes were relocated, Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico and South Dakota, according to a National Native American study. Boarding School Healing Coalition.

School children were often subjected to military-style discipline and had their long hair cut. Early programs had a strong focus on job skills, including household chores for girls. Some children never returned home.

Counting the number of children who died in schools was difficult because records were not always kept. Ground penetrating radar was used at some locations to search for remains.

The Boarding Schools Coalition said the Interior’s work would be an important step for the United States to address its role in schools, but noted that the agency’s authority was limited.

Later this week, a U.S. House subcommittee will hear testimony on a bill to create a truth and healing commission modeled after a commission in Canada. Several religious groups support the legislation.

Betty K. Park