Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Testifies In Historic Hearing On Indian Boarding Schools

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Interior Secretary Deb Haaland delivered devastating grounds Wednesday astir the U.S. government’s decades-long argumentation of forcibly removing Native American children from their families and putting them into violent, far-away boarding schools intended to assimilate them into achromatic culture.

“The consequences of national Indian boarding schoolhouse policies — including the intergenerational trauma caused by forced household separation and taste eradication—were inflicted connected generations of children arsenic young arsenic 4 years aged and are heartbreaking,” Haaland told the Senate Committee connected Indian Affairs, which held a proceeding to reappraisal a first-of-its-kind investigative study from the Interior Department that examines how, exactly, the authorities acceptable up its argumentation for rounding up Indigenous children for each those years.

The study marks the archetypal clip successful much than 200 years that the U.S. has formally reviewed oregon adjacent acknowledged the scope and breadth of its erstwhile policies aimed astatine erasing Native American culture, connection and people.

The Interior Department ran hundreds of these boarding schools from 1819 to 1969 each implicit the country. Tens of thousands of children endured extended psychological, carnal and intersexual abuse. Some died. Others simply disappeared. The extremity of these schools, arsenic the laminitis of 1 of the flagship boarding schools, Lt. Col. Richard Henry Pratt, enactment it successful 1879, was to “Kill the Indian, prevention the man.”

Haaland, the nation’s archetypal Native American Cabinet secretary, shared immoderate of the report’s cardinal findings with the committee. The study is portion of a broader effort astatine the Interior Department, on with a legislative effort successful Congress, to assistance bring overdue reconciliation and healing to Indigenous people.

The department’s reappraisal of national records recovered that the authorities targeted the removal of Indigenous children arsenic portion of a broader effort to instrumentality onshore distant from tribes. The study besides recovered that the national Indian boarding schoolhouse strategy consisted of 408 schools crossed 37 states oregon then-territories, including 21 successful Alaska and 7 successful Hawaii.

In addition, the study recovered that astir 50% of national Indian boarding schools whitethorn person received wealth oregon unit from a spiritual instauration oregon organization. At times the national authorities paid spiritual groups for Native children to participate national Indian boarding schools that these institutions and organizations operated.

“Like each Native people, I americium a merchandise of these horrific assimilation-era policies,” Haaland said, choking up. “My grandparents were removed from their families to national Indian boarding schools erstwhile they were lone 8 years aged and forced to unrecorded distant from their parents … until they were 13 years old.”

"Like each  Native people, I americium  a merchandise  of these horrific assimilation-era policies, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testified to the Senate Committee connected  Indian Affairs.
"Like each Native people, I americium a merchandise of these horrific assimilation-era policies, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testified to the Senate Committee connected Indian Affairs.

Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images

The interior caput said investigators person identified astatine slightest 53 schools with marked oregon unmarked burial sites wherever Native American children’s bodies were enactment erstwhile they died astatine school. The study shared successful Wednesday’s proceeding is Volume 1; the adjacent measurement is expected to place much burial sites and perchance much details astir Indian boarding schoolhouse sites, the children who were determination and the operating dates of facilities.

Interior Department officials besides program to commencement going into tribal communities and proceeding from survivors of erstwhile Indian boarding schools and descendants of students. The archetypal listening league volition instrumentality spot successful Oklahoma, and the section is moving with the Department of Health and Human Services to person aesculapian providers connected tract to assistance radical enactment done the trauma they whitethorn consciousness successful retelling what they oregon their families person been through.

“We’re moving with tribes to marque definite we are reaching out, truthful they are helping america plan wherever to person sessions,” Haaland told the committee. “We privation to marque definite we are documenting this. If folks privation to stock publicly, they can. We volition adjacent this disconnected to the nationalist truthful if radical don’t privation to stock with the public, they can.”

The interior caput noted that it wasn’t mislaid connected her that she is present starring the section that erstwhile tried to hitch retired Native American people, including her.

“I americium successful a unsocial presumption to code the lasting impacts of these policies,” said Haaland. “I present person nonstop oversight implicit the precise section that operated and oversaw the implementation of the national Indian boarding schoolhouse system.”

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