U.S. report on Indigenous boarding schools finds at least 500 child deaths

By Jill Ryan, Michel Marizco
Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 - 11:02am
Updated: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 - 5:41pm

The U.S. Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland has released the first volume of an investigative report detailing the federal government's past oversight of Native American boarding schools. The initial analysis found approximately 19 federal Indian boarding schools accounted for over 500 child deaths in 150 years.

Other findings include forced assimilation on American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children. Methods included: renaming children to English names; cutting their hair; and suppressing the use of Native languages, or religious and cultural practices.

Also, the report found approximately 53 different schools across the Indian boarding school system have marked or unmarked burial sites. More are expected to be uncovered. 

Haaland also announced the launch of the yearlong tour “The Road to Healing.” She says this intends to give survivors a chance to connect and share their stories.

It is unclear how many investigative volumes will be released.

Haaland announced an initiative last June to investigate the troubled legacy of boarding schools, which the government established and supported for decades. Indigenous children routinely were taken from their communities and forced into schools that sought to strip them of their language and culture.

Later this week, a U.S. House subcommittee will hear testimony on a bill to create a truth and healing commission modeled after one in Canada. Several church groups are backing the legislation.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez called on the U.S. government to now look at the impacts on each of the individual tribes.

"Not just to peel off the scar or bring out these emotions once again for those who encountered the traumas but we also need to have the federal government look at ways to help nations, tribal nations, with resources that can help these students," he said in an interview with KJZZ's Fronteras Desk. 

Those students, he said, are now grandparents in their respective tribes and are still living with that trauma.

Native American Affairs