New Details on Federal Indian Boarding Schools to be Released in January

New information regarding the atrocities that took place at federally-run boarding schools aimed at eradicating Indigenous people will be revealed in the upcoming year.

In May 2022, the U.S. Department of Interior published a report following the federal government’s first-ever investigation into the country’s boarding school system. The report identified 408 federal Indian boarding schools that dispossessed Indigenous people of their lands and forcibly assimilated their children, including 43 schools in New Mexico.

Heidi Todacheene, a senior advisor to U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna), stated that the second volume of the report is expected to be released in early January 2024. However, she did not provide a specific date of publication.

Todacheene (Diné) revealed that the upcoming report will include fresh information about the total number of Indigenous children who attended federally-run boarding schools, their names, and tribal affiliations.

The report will also uncover the locations of marked and unmarked burial sites, the schools’ associations with religious organizations, and the amount of federal funding allocated to the boarding school system, Todacheene added.

Todacheene addressed the Indian Affairs Committee of the New Mexico Legislature in Santa Fe via Zoom on Tuesday. She was speaking about the ongoing research and data collection carried out by the Interior and other federal agencies since the publication of the first volume of the U.S. boarding school initiative. These efforts include Road to Healing listening sessions conducted throughout the country. The second-to-last session took place in Albuquerque on Oct. 29, as reported by Native News Online.

These listening sessions unveiled the fact that Indian children were forcibly removed from their original tribal communities by the United States, transported hundreds or even thousands of miles away, to prevent them from running away or returning home, Todacheene informed.

“Federal laws have also forced parents to give up their children through punishment, imprisonment, or withholding food rations to families and communities,” Todacheene said. “The deliberate federal disruption of tribal communities through the removal of Indian children to off-reservation boarding schools will never be completely healed, nor that the loss of community or language or culture can adequately be replaced.”

Todacheene noted that while the listening sessions have concluded, Haaland and Interior Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland (Ojibwe) still encourage individuals to share their stories and experiences.

The report revealed that approximately half of the federally-run boarding schools received support or involvement from religious organizations. The federal government used funds from Indian Trust Funds to finance these schools, allowing them to separate children from their parents without consent and place them in environments designed to eradicate generational bonds by eradicating language and culture.

Sen. Benny Shendo (D-Jemez) inquired about the possibility of the Interior Department providing reparations to survivors, but Todacheene’s presentation ended before she could respond.

“I believe that’s illegal because those are accounts that are held in trust for people,” Shendo stated. “For the federal government to dip into that fund to pay for the annihilation and dispossession of tribes of their land, I think it’s pretty egregious.”

Rep. Harry Garcia (D-Grants) asked what steps the federal government is taking to compensate survivors for the harm inflicted upon them.

“There’s bound to be long-term effects on these children who are now adults,” Garcia expressed.

Todacheene assured that the second volume of the report will include recommendations from Newland on how to address and prioritize these issues.

“All of our leadership at the Department and other federal agencies, and of course in Indian Country, we know that we could have some improvements to our health care and mental health services,” Todacheene stated.

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