Burial sites discovered at 53 Native American boarding schools in the United States

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – An Interior Department investigation into the dark history of Native American boarding schools in the United States found “marked and unmarked graves” at some 53 schools, Secretary Deb Haaland said Wednesday (May 11).

Haaland, the first Native American cabinet member, announced the inquiry last year.

When releasing the preliminary findings Wednesday at a news conference in Washington, she spoke through tears and in a hushed voice.

“Federal policies that attempted to obliterate Indigenous identity, language and culture continue to manifest in the pain that tribal communities experience today,” Haaland said.

“We need to shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past.”

Until Wednesday, the US government had yet to report on the legacy of the schools, which used education to change culture so that tribal lands could be taken.

Families were forced to send their children to school.

To compile Haaland’s report, researchers found records on 408 schools that received federal funding from 1819 to 1969, and another 89 schools that did not receive government money.

About half of the schools were run by the government or supported by churches of various denominations. Scores of children were abused in schools and tens of thousands have never been heard from again, activists and researchers say.

The report notes that “endemic physical, sexual and emotional abuse” has taken place in schools and is well documented, and that so far the investigation has found more than 500 children who died while in custody. seen. Investigators said they expected to find many more deaths.

Haaland said she is embarking on a year-long “on the road to recovery” tour to listen to survivors of the boarding school system.

The survey’s next goals are to estimate the number of children who attended the schools, find more burial sites, and identify how much federal money went to churches that participated in the school system, among other questions.

She said Congress had provided US$7 million (S$9 million) to continue research this year, which she said was fundamental to helping Native Americans heal.

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