FLAGSTAF, Ariza (AP) – Deb Haaland is pushing the U.S. government to reckon with its role in disembarking Indians aboard …
FLAGSTAF, Ariza. (AP) – Deb Haaland is pushing the U.S. government to reckon with its role in Indian boarding schools like no other cabinet secretary – backed by personal experience, fighting the loss of native language and a wider community that has had devastating consequences.
The agency she oversees – the Department of the Interior – this week released the first-of-its-kind report listing 408 schools that the federal government has backed to deprive Native Americans of their culture and identity. At least 500 children have died in some schools, but that number is expected to reach thousands or tens of thousands as additional research is conducted.
“We have unique opportunities to help try to unravel the black history of these institutions that have haunted our families for too long,” she told a news conference on Wednesday. “As a pueblo woman, it’s my responsibility and, frankly, it’s my legacy.”
The U.S. government was not open to an investigation to uncover the truth about boarding schools that operated from the late 18th century to the late 1960s. Now this is possible because there are people in the US government who know firsthand about the persistent injuries caused by the dormitory system.
However, work to uncover the truth and pave the way for healing will rely on the availability of financial resources in an Indian country that is chronically unfunded by the federal government.
Tribes will have to be governed by federal repatriation laws to pick up indigenous children who have died and been buried in former boarding schools, if desired, and may not have access to burial sites on private land. Causes of death included illness, accidental injuries and ill-treatment.
Survivors of the boarding school may also be reluctant to talk about their painful past and trust the government, whose policy was to exterminate the tribes and, later, assimilate them under the guise of education. Some welcomed the opportunity to share their stories for the first time.
Haaland, the first and only secretary of the Indian cabinet, has the support of President Joe Biden for further investigation. Congress has allocated $ 7 million to the Department of the Interior to work on the next phase of the report, which will focus on burial sites and identifying local children and their ages. Haaland also said the annual tour will focus on collecting stories of boarding school survivors for a collection of oral history.
The bill, which was previously introduced in Congress to establish a commission on truth and rehabilitation in boarding schools, received its first hearing on Thursday. It is sponsored by two American Indians, Democrat Sharis Davids of Kansas, who is Ho-Chank, and Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who is Chicago.
“Working with Home Affairs, knowing that there are representatives in the federal government who understand this experience not only in the historical record but also in the depths of themselves, in their personal stories, really makes a difference,” said Deborah Parker, executive director of the National Coalition. healing boarding schools of Indians and a member of the Tulalip tribes.
More than two decades ago, Assistant Secretary of State for Indian Affairs Kevin Hover apologized for the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual violence committed against children in schools outside the reservation. Then in 2009, President Barack Obama quietly signed a kind of apology for “violence, abuse and neglect inflicted on Indigenous people by United States citizens.” The language has been deeply buried in multibillion-dollar defense spending bills.
The proposed commission will have more options than investigating internal affairs to seek records with the right to sue. He will give recommendations to the federal government within five years of its adoption, possibly in the U.S. House of Representatives but more difficult in the U.S. Senate.
Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States passed laws and policies to establish and maintain boarding schools for Indians. The goal was to civilize Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Hawaiians. Religious and private institutions often received federal funding and were willing partners.
Captain Richard Henry Pratt described the essence of federal boarding schools in his speech in 1892, where he said, “Kill an Indian and save a man.”
Minnesota resident Mitch Walking Elk has repeatedly run away from boarding schools he attended in the late 1950s and early 60s because “my spirit knew it wasn’t a very good place for me,” he said.
Boarding schools are not the only thing that has led him to distrust the federal government, even if he seems willing to reveal the past. In 1864, the ancestors of the Walking Elk from the Cheyenne and Arapaha tribes were attacked by a massacre in Sand Creek. At least 200 people were killed and the bodies of the victims were mutilated.
“I have reservations about what’s happening now because I don’t trust them,” Walking Elk said. “If Deb Haaland makes too many waves, far right, the extremists will do something to slow it down.”
Boarding school survivor Ramona Klein testified before Congress on Thursday, describing seeing her mother cry as her children boarded a large green bus to a boarding school, as they were once brushed and slept under an army’s tattered woolen blanket. . She put on a big rubber hand when she said that she was touched at school at night, “just like you can’t touch a child’s body.”
“Being at this boarding school was the loneliest time of my life,” said Klein, a member of the Turtle Mountain group from Chippew in North Dakota. “It was hard for me to trust other people, including the people on this committee, with my emotions, thoughts, dreams and physical being. And how can this not be the result? ”
Republican MP Jay Obernolte of California said Congress would need to consider financial investment in the proposed commission and whether those who serve would do so as a public service or receive compensation.
“I am not against investing significant resources of taxpayers in this commission, but I think we must say exactly what kind of resources,” he said on Thursday.
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