rainn.png
Thursday July 7th, 2022 4:03AM

US reckoning with role in Native American boarding schools

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Deb Haaland is pushing the U.S. government to reckon with its role in Native American boarding schools like no other Cabinet secretary could — backed by personal experience, a struggle with losing her own Native language and a broader community that has felt the devastating impacts.

The agency she oversees — the Interior Department — released a first-of-its-kind report this week that named the 408 schools the federal government supported to strip Native Americans of their cultures and identities. At least 500 children died at some of the schools, but that number is expected to reach into the thousands or tens of thousands as more research is done.

“We are uniquely positioned to assist in the effort to undercover the dark history of these institutions that have haunted our families for too long,” she said Wednesday during a news conference. “As a pueblo woman, it is my responsibility and, frankly, it’s my legacy.”

The U.S. government hasn't been open to investigating itself to uncover the truth about boarding schools that operated from the late 18th century to the late 1960s. It's possible now because people who know first-hand the persistent trauma caused by the boarding school system are positioned in the U.S. government.

Still, the work to uncover the truth and create a path for healing will rely on having financial resources in Indian Country, which the federal government has chronically underfunded.

Tribes will have to navigate federal laws on repatriation to take Native children who died and are buried at former boarding school sites home, if desired, and might have no recourse to access burial sites on private land. The causes of death included disease, accidental injuries and abuse.

Boarding school survivors also might be hesitant to recount the painful past and trust a government whose policies were to eradicate tribes and, later, assimilate them under the veil of education. Some have welcomed the opportunity to share their stories for the first time.

Haaland, the first and only Native American Cabinet secretary, has the support of President Joe Biden to investigate further. Congress has provided the Interior Department with $7 million for its work on the next phase of the report, which will focus on burial sites, and identifying Native children and their ages. Haaland also said a year-long tour would seek to gather stories of boarding school survivors for an oral history collection.

A bill that's previously been introduced in Congress to create a truth and healing commission on boarding schools got its first hearing Thursday. It's sponsored by two Native American U.S. representatives — Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas, who is Ho-Chunk, and Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who is Chickasaw.

“Working with the Interior, knowing that there are representatives in the federal government who understand these experiences not just on a historical record but deep within their selves, their own personal stories, really makes a difference,” said Deborah Parker, chief executive of the National Native American Boarding Schools Healing Coalition and a member of the Tulalip Tribes.

More than two decades ago, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Gover issued an apology for the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual violence committed against children at the off-reservation schools. Then in 2009, President Barack Obama quietly signed off on an apology of sorts for “violence, maltreatment and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.” The language was buried deep in a multibillion-dollar defense spending bill.

The proposed commission would have a broader scope than the Interior's investigation to seek records with subpoena power. It would make recommendations to the federal government within five years of its passage, possible in the U.S. House but more difficult in the U.S. Senate.

Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the U.S. enacted laws and policies to establish and support Native American Boarding Schools. The goal was to civilize Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. Religious and private institutions often received federal funding and were willing partners.

Capt. Richard Henry Pratt described the essence of the federal boarding schools in a speech he gave in 1892 where he said, “Kill the Indian and save the man.”

Minnesota resident Mitch Walking Elk ran away multiple times from boarding schools he attended in the late 1950s and early '60s because “my spirit knew it wasn’t a good place for me,” he said.

Boarding schools aren't the only thing that has led him to distrust the federal government, even as it seems willing to uncover the past. In 1864, Walking Elk’s ancestors from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes were attacked in the Sand Creek Massacre. At least 200 people were killed, and victims’ bodies were mutilated.

“I have reservations about what's going on right now because I don't trust them,” said Walking Elk. “If Deb Haaland makes too many waves, the far right, the extremists will manufacture something to put the brakes on this.”

Boarding school survivor Ramona Klein testified before Congress on Thursday, describing seeing her mother cry as her children got on a big, green bus for boarding school, being scrubbed with a stiff brush once there, and sleeping under a scratchy wool Army blanket. She put on a large rubber hand when she spoke of being touched at the school at night “like no child’s body should be touched.”

“Being in that boarding school was the loneliest time of my life,” said Klein, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota. “It has made it difficult for me to trust other people, including the people on this committee, with my emotions, my thoughts, my dreams and my physical being. And how could that not be the result?”

Republican Rep. Jay Obernolte of California said Congress would need to consider the financial investment in the proposed commission and whether those who serve would do so as a public service or be compensated.

“I’m not opposed to investing substantial taxpayer resources in this commission, but I think we need to be explicit about what those resources are,” he said Thursday.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US reckoning with role in Native American boarding schools
The U.S. government has not been open to investigating its role in stripping Native Americans of their cultures and identities in boarding schools
6:50PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Sources: Hyundai to set $7B US plant during Biden Asia visit
A U.S. official familiar with the project says South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Group is expected to announce its plans next week to build a massive electric vehicle plant near Savannah, Georgia
5:58PM ( 1 hour ago )
Parents swap, sell baby formula as Biden focuses on shortage
A shortage of baby formula in the United States is driving parents to swap, sell and offer leftover supplies to each other
5:39PM ( 1 hour ago )
U.S. News
Trump scrambles to fend off Oz challenger in Pa. Senate race
Sensing a threat in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, Donald Trump has issued a warning that surging Republican candidate Kathy Barnette would upend the GOP’s chances of holding the seat in November
6:43PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Senate confirms Powell for 2nd term as Fed fights inflation
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Jerome Powell for a second four-year term as Federal Reserve chair, giving bipartisan backing to Powell’s high-stakes efforts to curb the highest inflation in four decades
6:23PM ( 44 minutes ago )
Biden cancels offshore oil lease sales in Gulf Coast, Alaska
The Biden administration says it is canceling three oil and gas lease sales scheduled in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska
6:21PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Russian threats push Finland toward joining NATO alliance
Finland’s leaders have come out in favor of applying to join NATO, and Sweden could do the same within days
6:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
Biden hosts ASEAN as he looks to show Pacific commitment
President Joe Biden is hosting leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as his administration continues an effort to demonstrate that the United States hasn’t lost focus on the Pacific
4:50PM ( 2 hours ago )
Finland moves toward joining NATO amid Russian threats
Finland’s leaders have come out in favor of applying to join NATO, and Sweden could do the same within days
4:37PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Parents swap, sell baby formula; Biden to talk to businesses
A shortage of baby formula in the United States is driving parents to swap, sell and offer leftover supplies to each other
3:17PM ( 3 hours ago )
Report: Trump officials, meat companies knew workers at risk
A new congressional report says that in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, the meat processing industry worked closely with political appointees in the Trump administration to stave off health restrictions and keep slaughterhouses open even as COVID-19 spread rapidly among workers
3:16PM ( 3 hours ago )
Alabama shipwreck holds key for kin of enslaved Africans
A crew working on the Alabama coast is assessing the remains of the last slave ship known to have landed in the United States, more than 160 years ago
1:44PM ( 5 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Biden hosts ASEAN leaders as he tries to show Pacific focus
President Joe Biden is hosting leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as his administration tries to show that the United States hasn’t lost focus on the Pacific
5:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
Crypto meltdown prompts Yellen to call for new regulation
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, responding to the recent sharp decline in cryptocurrencies, says additional federal regulation is needed to respond to the wave of speculative investment in the currency whose secrecy is an essential part of its appeal
3:22PM ( 3 hours ago )
Jan. 6 panel subpoenas McCarthy, four other GOP lawmakers
A House panel has issued subpoenas to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers as part of its probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection
3:06PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Trump-backed candidate in Wash. House race appears to stall
There are signs the insurgent candidate backed by former President Donald Trump appears to be faltering in a crowded field of Republicans challenging the GOP incumbent for a U.S. House seat in conservative central Washington state
11:44AM ( 7 hours ago )
Biden urges world to renew COVID fight as US nears 1M deaths
President Joe Biden has appealed to world leaders for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19 as he leads the U.S. in marking the approaching “tragic milestone” of 1 million deaths at home from the virus
9:44AM ( 9 hours ago )
Biden co-hosts 2nd global COVID summit as US nears 1M deaths
President Joe Biden will appeal for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19 as the second global pandemic summit opens
8:58AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Sources: Hyundai to set $7B US plant during Biden Asia visit
A U.S. official familiar with the project says South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Group is expected to announce its plans next week to build a massive electric vehicle plant near Savannah, Georgia
6:29PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Parents swap, sell baby formula as Biden focuses on shortage
President Joe Biden is stepping up his administration’s response to a nationwide baby formula shortage that has forced frenzied parents into online groups to swap and sell to each other to keep their babies fed
6:04PM ( 1 hour ago )
Louisiana state troopers charged in beating of Black man
Three Louisiana State Police troopers have been charged with simple battery, accused of beating a Black motorist after a chase
5:02PM ( 2 hours ago )
County, governor spar over protests at justices' homes
Fairfax County officials have rebuffed a request from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to establish a security perimeter around the neighborhoods of Supreme Court justices living in the county who have faced protests outside their homes
4:56PM ( 2 hours ago )
Surfside families still want answers despite settlement
Family members of some of the 98 people killed in a Florida condominium collapse last June say they are too deep in mourning to contemplate the nearly $1 billion settlement their attorneys negotiated on their behalf
4:31PM ( 2 hours ago )