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

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Interior Secretary Deb Haaland delivered devastating testimony Wednesday concerning the U.S. authorities’s decades-long coverage of forcibly eradicating Native American kids from their households and placing them into violent, far-away boarding colleges supposed to assimilate them into white tradition.

“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies — including the intergenerational trauma caused by forced family separation and cultural eradication—were inflicted on generations of children as young as 4 years old and are heartbreaking,” Haaland advised the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, which held a listening to to evaluate a first-of-its-kind investigative report from the Interior Department that examines how, precisely, the federal government arrange its coverage for rounding up Indigenous kids for all these years.

The report marks the primary time in additional than 200 years that the U.S. has formally reviewed and even acknowledged the scope and breadth of its former insurance policies aimed toward erasing Native American tradition, language and other people.

The Interior Department ran tons of of those boarding colleges from 1819 to 1969 all around the nation. Tens of hundreds of kids endured in depth psychological, bodily and sexual abuse. Some died. Others merely disappeared. The purpose of those colleges, as the founding father of one of many flagship boarding colleges, Lt. Col. Richard Henry Pratt, put it in 1879, was to “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

Haaland, the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary, shared among the report’s key findings with the committee. The report is a part of a broader effort on the Interior Department, together with a legislative effort in Congress, to assist carry overdue reconciliation and therapeutic to Indigenous folks.

The division’s evaluate of federal data discovered that the federal government focused the removing of Indigenous kids as a part of a broader effort to take land away from tribes. The report additionally discovered that the federal Indian boarding college system consisted of 408 colleges throughout 37 states or then-territories, together with 21 in Alaska and 7 in Hawaii.

In addition, the report discovered that roughly 50% of federal Indian boarding colleges could have acquired cash or personnel from a spiritual establishment or group. At instances the federal authorities paid non secular teams for Native kids to enter federal Indian boarding colleges that these establishments and organizations operated.

“Like all Native people, I am a product of these horrific assimilation-era policies,” Haaland stated, choking up. “My grandparents were removed from their families to federal Indian boarding schools when they were only 8 years old and forced to live away from their parents … until they were 13 years old.”

&Quot;Like All Native People, I Am A Product Of These Horrific Assimilation-Era Policies, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Testified To The Senate Committee On Indian Affairs.
“Like all Native people, I am a product of these horrific assimilation-era policies, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testified to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images

The interior secretary said investigators have identified at least 53 schools with marked or unmarked burial sites where Native American children’s bodies were put when they died at school. The report shared in Wednesday’s hearing is Volume 1; the next volume is expected to identify more burial sites and potentially more details about Indian boarding school sites, the children who were there and the operating dates of facilities.

Interior Department officials also plan to start going into tribal communities and hearing from survivors of former Indian boarding schools and descendants of students. The first listening session will take place in Oklahoma, and the department is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to have medical providers on site to help people work through the trauma they may feel in retelling what they or their families have been through.

“We’re working with tribes to make sure we are reaching out, so they are helping us design where to have sessions,” Haaland told the committee. “We want to make sure we are documenting this. If folks want to share publicly, they can. We will close this off to the public so if people don’t want to share with the public, they can.”

The interior secretary noted that it wasn’t lost on her that she is now leading the department that once tried to wipe out Native American people, including her.

“I am in a unique position to address the lasting impacts of these policies,” said Haaland. “I now have direct oversight over the very department that operated and oversaw the implementation of the federal Indian boarding school system.”

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