Indigenous boarding schools to be investigated, Home Secretary Haaland says



PHOENIX – When the Phoenix Indian School was established in 1891, the top federal administrator saw it as a budget victory to send Native American children to boarding schools to force their assimilation into white society.

“It’s cheaper to educate Indians than to kill them,” Indian Commissioner Thomas Morgan said when the school opened.

The true cost of residential schools in the United States and Canada, and the abuse that Native Americans suffered there, continues to be revealed. With nearly 1,000 bodies in mass graves discovered this month on the grounds of Canadian boarding schools as part of their ongoing investigation, and Home Secretary Deb Halaand’s recent pledge to investigate past abuses in the United States, native boarding schools in Arizona are under review.


Residential school stories still resonate

Rosalie Talahongva, who runs the Visitor Center at the Phoenix Indian School, said she and many of her Hopi parents attended the school there.

“If you ask, was it voluntary, I would ask you, is it voluntary when there is no other option?” Said Talahongva.

The Phoenix Indian School closed in 1990 by order of the federal government. But a handful of residential schools remain in operation.

“Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt had a lot to do with the structure of these residential schools,” said Talahongva, referring to the founder of the influential Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. “His idea was ‘Kill the Indian, save the man.’ So all the destruction, annihilation of Indian identity – Indian culture had to be destroyed in these federal residential schools.

“There were a lot of children who were simply forcibly taken away from their families and forced to come to boarding school.”

In 1900, 20,000 children were in residential schools. By 1925, that number had more than tripled, according to Boarding School Healing.

The students are stripped of everything related to Aboriginal life. Their hair was cut short, they had to wear uniforms, and the students were physically punished for speaking anything other than English. Contact with family was discouraged or prohibited. Survivors described a culture of pervasive physical and sexual abuse in schools. Food and medical care were often scarce and resulted in many deaths, according to The Atlantic.

Some schools were run by the Catholic Church. The Atlantic reports that “about a third of the 357 known Indian residential schools were operated by various Christian denominations” under the Civilization Fund Act of 1819.

The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix did not respond to requests for comment.

The operation of long-stream schools will be the subject of a new investigation as part of the Federal Indian Residential Schools Initiative announced on June 22 by Haaland. The ministry intends to identify residential schools and burial sites across the country and review registration lists.

The announcement came after the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada. Other graves have already been discovered in Canada. Cowessess First Nation found 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, June 24. The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is working to identify a series of unmarked graves at the former Brandon Residential School in Manitoba. , according to chef Jennifer Bone. So far, 104 possible bodies of Indigenous children have been found on or around school property.

“It will be difficult to look back on this past, but it is time for this to be recognized,” said Talahongva. “The atrocities that have taken place here must be acknowledged. “

According to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, four off-reserve boarding schools from the Office of Indian Affairs are still in operation: Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon, Sherman Indian School in Riverside, Calif., Flandreau Indian School. in Flandreau, South Dakota, and Riverside. Indian school in Anadarko, Oklahoma. However, the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition told Reuters that more than 70 schools are still operating in the United States.

Haaland, member of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico, claims to be the product of “horrible assimilationist policies” in the United States

“I come from ancestors who endured the horrors of residential school assimilation policies carried out by the same department that I now head; the same agency that tried to eradicate our culture, our language, our spiritual practices and our people, ”she said in a speech to the National Congress of American Indians.

Marsha Small, a doctoral student at Montana State University, used ground-penetrating radar to locate anonymous graves at the Chemawa Indian School cemetery in Salem, Oregon. So far, she has found 222 sets of leftovers at the school, which remains in operation.

“Until we can find these children and let their elders come and get them or find out where they can pay their respects, I don’t think the native is going to heal, and as such I don’t think the native will heal. ‘America will heal,’ Small told Reuters.

A researcher told Reuters he believes as many as 40,000 children may have died in Indian boarding schools in the United States

“We need to find out the truth about the loss of life and the lasting consequences of schools,” Haaland said in remarks on the new federal residential schools initiative. “This investigation will identify school facilities and sites, the location of known and possible burial sites in or near school facilities, and the identities and tribal affiliations of the children who were taken away.”

The initiative will be phased in and will include the identification and collection of documents and information related to the Ministry of Interior’s oversight and implementation of the residential school program, as well as the holding of consultations with tribal nations, Alaska Native societies and Hawaiian Native organizations. , according to a press release from the Interior Ministry.

“I know this process will be long and difficult,” Haaland said. “I know this process will be painful and will not resolve the grief and loss that so many of us feel, but it is only by acknowledging the past that we can work towards a future that we are all proud of. to kiss.”

Journalist Cronkite News Julia sandor contributed to this report.

(Video by Julia sandor/ News from Cronkite)

Copyright 2021 Cronkite News / Arizona Board of Regents. All rights reserved.


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