US Revisits History of Indigenous Boarding Schools: Deb Haaland | Human rights news

Home Secretary launches an investigation into American practices over 150 years to destroy Native American tribal identity and culture.

The federal government will investigate its past surveillance of residential schools and work to “uncover the truth about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences” of the institutions, which over decades forced hundreds of thousands of children of their families and communities. , US Home Secretary Deb Haaland said on Tuesday.

The unprecedented work will include the compilation and review of decades of records to identify former boarding schools, locate known and possible burial sites in or near these schools, and uncover the names and tribal affiliations of the students, a t she declared.

“To combat the intergenerational impact of residential schools and promote spiritual and emotional healing in our communities, we must shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past, no matter how difficult it will be,” Haaland said.

A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe of New Mexico and the first Native American to serve as Secretary to the Cabinet, Haaland introduced the initiative while addressing members of the National Congress of American Indians at the mid-year conference of the group.

She said the process will be long, difficult and painful and will not resolve the grief and loss suffered by many families.

The Flambeau Lake boys’ dormitory in northern Wisconsin, built in 1895, is a remnant and reminder of the government boarding school, which took young Native Americans from their families and prevented them from speaking the language of their parents [Courtesy: Creative Commons]

Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and policies to establish and support residential schools across the country. For over 150 years, Indigenous children have been removed from their communities and placed in assimilationist residential schools.

Haaland spoke about the federal government’s attempt to eradicate tribal identity, language and culture and how this past has continued to manifest itself through long-standing trauma, cycles of violence and abuse. , premature death, mental disorders and drug addiction.

the recent discovery of children’s remains buried at the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school has heightened interest in this heritage in Canada and the United States.

In Canada, more than 150,000 First Nations children were to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and were not allowed to speak their language. Many have been beaten and verbally assaulted, and up to 6,000 are believed to have died.

After reading about the anonymous graves in Canada, Haaland told the story of his own family in a recent Washington Post opinion piece.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland launched the US investigation after reading reports of an unmarked grave in Canada that contained the remains of 215 Indigenous children [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

Haaland wrote that she is “a product of these horrible assimilation policies” and recounted how her “maternal grandparents were stolen from their families” at the age of eight.

She cited statistics from the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, which reported that in 1926 more than 80 percent of Indigenous school-aged children attended boarding schools run either by the federal government or by religious organizations. . In addition to providing resources and raising awareness, the coalition has worked to compile additional research on residential schools and the deaths that many say are sorely lacking.

Interior Ministry officials have said that in addition to trying to shed light on the loss of residential school life, they will work to protect burial sites associated with schools and consult with tribes on the best way of doing it while respecting families and communities.

As part of the initiative, a final report from agency staff is due by April 1, 2022.

Haaland, during her speech, told the story of her grandmother loaded onto a train with other children from her village and sent to boarding school. She said many families have been haunted for too long by the “dark history” of these institutions and that the agency has the responsibility to recover this history.

“We need to find out the truth about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of these schools,” she said.

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