By TNV Desk
After Canada, it is now US’ turn when it comes to exposing the dark colonial past where Indian schools were set up and run by churches to destroy native Indian culture and exploit its indigenous children. In the wake of the recent discovery of unmarked graves of 215 children buried at Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada, there are organizations demanding accountability in the US also.
According to a Reuters’ report, “Native Americans decry unmarked graves, untold history of boarding schools”, “Christine Diindiissi McCleave, chief executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, said unmarked graves linked to Indian schools also exist in the United States.
“It’s a little bit annoying that so many people are shocked by that news from Canada,” McCleave said. “We’ve been trying to tell people about this for years,” he added.
According to Coalitions official website, “ The U.S. Indian Boarding School Era was an integral part of a centuries-long systematic, genocidal campaign by the United States government to erase Native peoples, cultures, and civilizations. This effort centered around widespread violence and expropriation of indigenous lands, broke every treaty made with sovereign Tribal nations, prevented Tribal Nations’ participation in the United States’ political and economic processes, made Tribal religion and practices illegal, and forcibly separated Native families.” The website can be accessed at https://boardingschoolhealing.org/kamloops/
Researched by NABS, there were at least 367 Indian boarding schools in this country. Many children were subject to physical and sexual abuse while at these institutions. How many children attended those schools, died, or went missing with remains unknown.
The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS)incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit in June 2012 under the laws of the Navajo Nation is working to increases the public awareness and cultivates healing for the profound trauma experienced by individuals, families, communities, American Indian and Alaska Native Nations due to the U.S. adoption and implementation of the Boarding School Policy of 1869.
Despite the repeated inquiries, requests under the Freedom of Information Act, and collaborative efforts with the United Nations, the U.S. has never acknowledged its assimilative boarding school policies and refused to provide an accounting of the children that went missing and deaths that occurred at Indian boarding schools in this country.
According to the report in Reuters, “One academic researcher contends that as many as 40,000 children may have died in or because of their poor care at the U.S.-run schools, but the federal government does not know or is unwilling to say how many children even attended the schools, how many died in or went missing from them, or even how many schools existed.”
It further said, “Among those who have called for a commission to fully investigate the legacy of Indian boarding schools is Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary and whose department oversees Indian schools, which churches began running in 1819 through federal funding.”
On the recent discovery in Canada, the report said, “Native Americans have watched with horror and a sorrowful sense of recognition as news unfolded in Canada of the discovery of the bodies of 215 children in unmarked graves at one of what were known as indigenous residential schools.”
It further added, “Many Americans may be alarmed to learn that the United States also has a history of taking Native children from their families in an effort to eradicate our culture and erase us as people,” wrote Haaland, who declined a Reuters interview request.”
It said, “The Canadian government said its indigenous residential schools, the last of which closed in 1996, carried out “cultural genocide.” Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has found at least 4,100 students died in the schools.
Flandreau, which is still operating, was founded in 1892. At the time the ethos of such schools was expressed by U.S. Civil War veteran General Richard Pratt, who founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in 1879 and said: “Kill the Indian, save the man.”
On the documented deaths, the Reuters report said, “Preston McBride, a Dartmouth College scholar, has documented at least 1,000 deaths at just four of the over 500 schools that existed in the United States, including the non-boarding schools on Indian reservations. His research has examined deaths from 1879 to 1934.”
Quoting McBride the report said, “The deaths were primarily from diseases made far more lethal in many of the schools because of poor treatment. The actual number of deaths is thought to be much higher.”
It’s quite likely that 40,000 children died either in or because of these institutions,” said McBride, who estimates that tens of thousands more children were simply never again in contact with their families or their tribes after being sent off to the schools. “This is on the order of magnitude of something like the Trail of Tears,” McBride said, referring to the government’s forced displacement of Native Americans between 1830 and 1850. “Yet it’s not talked about.”
On individual efforts in uncovering this dark past of Indian School, the report said, “Marsha Small, a Montana State University doctoral student, uses ground-penetrating radar to locate unmarked graves, including at the Chemawa Indian School cemetery in Salem, Oregon. The cemetery was left in disarray after original stone markers were leveled in 1960. So far she’s found 222 sets of remains but says much more work is required to have a full accounting.
“Until we can find those kids and let their elders come get them or know where they can pay respects, I don’t think the native is going to heal, and as such I don’t think America is going to heal,” Small said.