Interior Department research into the history of abusive boarding schools should be released in the coming weeks

By: - March 17, 2022 3:34 pm

Boarding school in 1885 in Albuquerque, N.M. Such schools are part of a long history of the United States government taking Indigenous children from their homes. A federal law established in the 1970s aimed to protect children and families, but it’s facing a challenge in the Supreme Court. (Photo from the National Archives / Public Domain)

The U.S. Department of the Interior is expected to begin releasing information next month from its investigation into federal boarding schools and their impact on Native American communities.

Secretary Deb Haaland said the department is close to completing its research into boarding school sites and the location of possible burial sites “at or near school facilities,” and that the research identifies “the tribal affiliations of children interred at those locations.”

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Haaland (Laguna) announced the investigation into the nation’s boarding school history in June and wrote an op-ed saying the earliest era especially caused generational trauma for Indigenous people.

During a press call celebrating her one-year mark running the Interior Department, Haaland stressed the importance of ensuring support for people uncovering the traumatic past caused by the federal government.

“We have been very cognizant of the fact that we need to create a safe space for people to share information and seek resources,” she said. “We recognize that this is a very traumatic experience for many people. We want to make sure that folks have the resources that they need to get through this.”

Boarding schools started with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819. “The purpose of Indian boarding schools was to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly relocating them from their families and communities to distant residential facilities,” according to the Interior Department.

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For more than 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities to experience a school system where they were abused for speaking traditional language or practicing ceremonial customs.

In Albuquerque, leaders are working out what to do with a boarding school burial site under a city park.

The Interior is on track to meet its April 1 deadline to get a report on the history to Haaland’s desk.

“I look forward to getting the draft of the report,” she said.”Once I have that in hand, we can move on to next steps, which I believe will be next month. So stay tuned.”

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.