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Investigative Report Outlines Details Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Findings

US Department of Interior

Press Release, May 11, 2022


WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland today released Volume 1 of the investigative report called for as part of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a comprehensive effort to address the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies. This report lays the groundwork for the continued work of the Interior Department to address the intergenerational trauma created by historical federal Indian boarding school policies.

This investigative report is a significant step by the federal government to comprehensively address the facts and consequences of its federal Indian boarding school policies—implemented for more than a century and a half—resulting in the twin goals of cultural assimilation and territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples through the forced removal and relocation of their children. It reflects an extensive and first-ever inventory of federally operated schools, including profiles and maps.


The investigation found that from 1819 to 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools across 37 states or then territories, including 21 schools in Alaska and 7 schools in Hawaii. The investigation identified marked or unmarked burial sites at approximately 53 different schools across the school system. As the investigation continues, the Department expects the number of identified burial sites to increase.


“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old—are heartbreaking and undeniable,” said Secretary Haaland.“We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal.”


“This report presents the opportunity for us to reorient federal policies to support the revitalization of Tribal languages and cultural practices to counteract nearly two centuries of federal policies aimed at their destruction,” said Assistant Secretary Newland. “Together, we can help begin a healing process for Indian Country, the Native Hawaiian Community and across the United States, from the Alaskan tundra to the Florida everglades, and everywhere in between.”


As part of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative and in response to recommendations from the report, Secretary Haaland today announced the launch of “The Road to Healing.” This year-long tour will include travel across the country to allow American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian survivors of the federal Indian boarding school system the opportunity to share their stories, help connect communities with trauma-informed support, and facilitate collection of a permanent oral history.


“The Department’s work thus far shows that an all-of-government approach is necessary to strengthen and rebuild the bonds within Native communities that federal Indian boarding school policies set out to break,” added Secretary Haaland. “With the President’s direction, we have begun working through the White House Council of Native American Affairs on the path ahead to preserve Tribal languages, invest in survivor-focused services, and honor our obligations to Indigenous communities. We also appreciate the ongoing engagement and support for this effort from Members of Congress and look forward to continued collaboration.”


Volume 1 of the report highlights some of the conditions children endured at these schools and raises important questions about the short- and long-term consequences of the federal Indian boarding school system on American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.


The investigation found that the federal Indian boarding school system deployed systematic militarized and identity-alteration methodologies in an attempt to assimilate American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children through education, including but not limited to renaming Indian children from Indian to English names; cutting the hair of Indian children; discouraging or preventing the use of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages, religions and cultural practices; and organizing Indian and Native Hawaiian children into units to perform military drills.


Despite assertions to the contrary, the investigation found that the school system largely focused on manual labor and vocational skills that left American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian graduates with employment options often irrelevant to the industrial U.S. economy, further disrupting Tribal economies.


The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting closures of federal facilities reflect the need for further investigation. The report identifies next steps that will be taken in a second volume, aided by a new $7 million investment from Congress through fiscal year 2022. Recommendations by Assistant Secretary Newland include producing a list of marked and unmarked burial sites at federal Indian boarding schools and an approximation of the total amount of federal funding used to support the federal Indian boarding school system, and further investigation to determine the legacy impacts of the school system on American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities today.


See the Full Report Here:

bsi_investigative_report_may_2022_508
.pdf
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The Executive Summary


Pursuant to the Secretarial Memorandum issued on June 22, 2021, Assistant Secretary Newland is leading the Department’s first investigation of the Federal Indian boarding school system. Federal records affirm that the United States targeted Indian and Native Hawaiian children as part of U.S.-Indian relations and U.S.-Native Hawaiian relations to enter the Federal Indian boarding school system, coinciding with Indian and Native Hawaiian territorial dispossession.


In analyzing records under its control, the Department developed an official list of Federal Indian boarding schools for the first time. The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), in partnership via a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department, was instrumental in the sharing of information and records pertinent to Federal development of the list. The Department has also started to identify locations of marked and unmarked burial sites of remains of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children at or near school facilities. The Department found that between 1819 to 1969, the Federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 Federal schools across 37 states or then-territories, including 21 schools in Alaska and 7 schools in Hawaii. Some individual Federal Indian boarding schools accounted for multiple sites. The 408 Federal Indian boarding schools accordingly comprised 431 specific sites. The list of the names and locations of these schools are included in this report at Appendix A. Summaries for each school are provided in Appendix B. Maps of each current state showing the schools are provided in Appendix C. While Federal Indian boarding schools were as varied as the Indian Tribes, Alaska Native Villages, and the Native Hawaiian Community they impacted and the geographic areas they were built in, the Department identified several common Federal Indian boarding school system features, described below, which remain under investigation. For a school to qualify as a Federal Indian boarding school, for the purpose of this investigation, the institution must meet four criteria, as described in greater detail below, including whether the institution (1) provided on-site housing or overnight lodging; (2) was described in records as providing formal academic or vocational training and instruction; (3) was described in records as receiving Federal Government funds or other support; and (4) was operational before 1969. Outside the scope of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, the Department identified over 1,000 other Federal and non-Federal institutions, including Indian day schools, sanitariums, asylums, orphanages, and stand-alone dormitories that may have involved education of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people, mainly Indian children. Initial results show that the earliest opening date of a Federal Indian boarding school in the system was 1801, and the latest opening date was 1969. However, the open date does not necessarily correspond to when the Federal Indian boarding school was first documented as receiving Federal support. The average number of Federal Indian boarding schools in current states with identified Federal Indian boarding schools was 11 schools. The greatest concentration of schools in the Federal Indian boarding school system was in present-day Oklahoma with 76 Federal Indian boarding schools(19 percent of total);


Arizona with 47 schools (12 percent of total); and New Mexico with 43 schools (11 percent of total).


Initial investigation results show that approximately 50 percent of Federal Indian boarding schools may have received support or involvement from a religious institution or organization, including funding, infrastructure, and personnel. As the U.S. Senate has recognized, funds from the 1819 Civilization Fund “were apportioned among those societies and individuals—usually missionary organizations—that had been prominent in the effort to ‘civilize’ the Indians.” The Federal Government at times paid religious institutions and organizations on a per capita basis for Indian children to enter the Federal Indian boarding schools that these institutions and organizations groups operated.


The investigation shows that the United States may have used monies held in Tribal trust accounts, including those based on cessions of Indian territories to the United States, to fund Indian children to attend Federal Indian boarding schools.


Based on initial data, the investigation shows that between 1820–1932 attendance, enrollment, and capacity of Federal institutions used for Indian education, including Federal Indian boarding schools, Federal Indian day schools, sanitariums, asylums, and orphanages was as follows:


· Attendance ranged from one child to over 1,000 children;

· Enrollment ranged from one child to over 1,200 children; and

· Capacity ranged from one child to over 1,700 children.


The Federal Indian boarding school system deployed systematic militarized and identity-alteration methodologies to attempt to assimilate American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children through education, including but not limited to the following: (1) renaming Indian children from Indian to English names; (2) cutting hair of Indian children;(3) discouraging or preventing the use of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages, religions, and cultural practices; and (4) organizing Indian and Native Hawaiian children into units to perform military drills.