On Wednesday, May 11, 2022 news broke that over 500 deaths have been identified at various Indigenous boarding schools across the country.
In 2021, Secretary of the Interior, the Honorable Deb Haaland directed “Department of the Interior (Department) agencies to coordinate an investigation into the Federal Indian boarding school system to examine the scope of the system, with a focus on the location of schools, burial sites, and identification of children who attended the schools.”
On April 1, 2022 Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs, submitted the first Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report.
What were the findings and what did these children face at these horrific places?
Here is the full May 2022 Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report.
According to an article on website WATE.com, “Overall, the U.S. Interior Department’s investigation found that from 1819 to 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools across 37 states or then-territories, including 21 schools in Alaska and 7 schools in Hawaii.”
According to the report itself, “The Department has acknowledged “frankly and unequivocally that the provisions for the care of the Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate. 179 Rampant physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; disease; malnourishment; overcrowding; and lack of health care in Indian boarding schools are well-documented.180”
WATE states: “Sites in Tennessee and North Carolina were listed in a first-of-its-kind federal report released Wednesday which identified over 500 deaths of Native American students at boarding schools run or supported by the U.S. government from the early 19th century to the 1960s… Based on the investigation, approximately 19 Federal Indian boarding schools accounted for over 500 American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian child deaths. The Department expects that continued investigation will reveal the approximate number of deaths at these boarding schools to be in the thousands or tens of thousands…The specific locations of burial sites associated with the Federal Indian boarding school system were not identified to protect against vandalism and other disturbances to those sites.”
“Thousands or tens of thousands deaths.”
On page 89 the report powerfully states:
“The increased trauma that men faced in the Indian boarding school system may have produced increased stress, which then may affect the biological systems of the body.364 These stressors may then introduce epigenetic alterations that are then transferred to their children, also known as epigenetic inheritance.”
Epigenetic inheritance. DNA Memory…
On page 79, Section 12 of the report, Federal Indian Boarding Schools and Freedmen, mention is made of the fact that formerly enslaved people were also associated with some of these schools. Hampton University, formerly Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute is also briefly discussed as a site in Section 13, Other Types of Schools.
The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative continues their investigation, according to the official report’s recommendations.
The Initiative also seeks to find survivors of these schools. Additionally, under no uncertain terms, the fiscal aspect of all of this is involved because the report further states the recommendation to:
“Identify religious institutions and organizations that have ever received Federal funding in support of the Federal Indian boarding school system;
o Identify States that may have ever received Federal funding in support of the Federal Indian boarding school system;
o Identify nonprofits, associations, academic institutions, philanthropies, and other organizations that may have received Federal funding in support of the Federal Indian boarding school system…”
Please see the report for the entire list of recommendations that I wholly support and do hope will come to fruition. Acknowledgement and action are so important to the beginning of righting ongoing and historical wrongs, even if absolution is not possible.
The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Report is a very important read for all. My personal opinion is that it is especially so for those who may be tempted to adopt the “Indian Princess” stereotype in their genealogy narratives without care or clue as to what it truly meant/means to be Indigenous or Native American.
While no subject as important and impactful as this can be distilled into a compact read, this report and its recommendations are as critically vital as any effort to create awareness about the plight of a people.
I sincerely applaud the efforts of Hon. Deb Haaland and Staff for bringing the weight of the office of the US Department of the Interior to the critically important task of finding our people.
This too is our situation…
The Genealogy Situation Room