“Federal Indian boarding schools have had a lasting impact on Indigenous people and communities across America,” Mr. Newland said. “This influence continues to affect the lives of countless families, from the breakdown of families and tribal nations to the loss of languages and cultural customs and relatives.”
The government has not yet opened a forum or opportunity for survivors or descendants of survivors in boarding schools or their families to describe their experiences in schools. In an attempt to assimilate the children of Native Americans, schools gave them English names, cut their hair, and forbade them to speak their languages and observe their religions and cultural traditions.
Deborah Parker, executive director of the National Coalition for the Healing of Indian Boarding Schools, said children who died in public boarding schools deserved to be identified and brought home. Ms. Parker said efforts to find them would not end until the United States fully takes into account the genocide committed against Indian children.
“Our children had names, our children had families, our children had their languages, our children had their regalia, prayers and religions before Indian boarding schools forcibly took them away,” Ms Parker said. .
Jim Labelle, a survivor of 10 years at a public boarding school, was sitting at the press conference with Ms. Haaland. Mr Labelle said he was eight years old when he started there. His brother was six.
“I learned all about European American culture,” he said. “It’s history, language, civilization, math, science, but I didn’t know anything about who I was. As a native, I came out not knowing who I was. ”
Ms. Haaland also announced plans for an annual cross-country tour called The Road to Healing, during which survivors at the boarding school could share their stories.