US Department of the Interior releases report on Indigenous boarding schools

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

Home Secretary Deb Haaland last June announced an initiative to examine the troubled legacy of boarding schools, which the government has set up and supported for decades. Indigenous children were routinely taken from their communities and forced into schools that attempted to strip them of their language and culture.

Catholic, Protestant, and other churches also ran some of the schools, aided by US law and policy.

The inside report was prompted by the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former school sites in Canada, evoking painful memories for Indigenous communities. Haaland said her agency’s report will identify previous schools, locate known and possible burial sites at or near those schools, and reveal students’ names and tribal affiliations.

The first volume of the report will be published on Wednesday. The Home Office has not said how many volumes were produced.

According to research by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, there are at least 367 Native American boarding schools in the United States, many in resettled Oklahoma, Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico and South Dakota.

Children in the schools were often subjected to military discipline and had their long hair cut. Early curricula had a strong focus on job skills, including housework for girls. Some children never returned home.

It was difficult to keep track of the number of children who died in schools because records were not always kept. Ground penetrating radar has been used in some locations to search for remains.

The Boarding Coalition has said Interior’s work will be an important step for the US when it comes to reckoning with its role in schools, but has noted the agency’s authority is limited.

Later this week, a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives will hear testimony on a bill to create a truth and healing commission modeled on one in Canada. Several church groups support the law.

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