What crimes were committed in your neighborhood?

There’s a dark blot covering my house in this map.

That map is from a report from the Department of the Interior discussing the long, ugly history of Indian boarding schools. It’s 100 pages long, but you can get a summary here.

The findings show from 1819 to 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools across 37 states, some territories at that time, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven schools in Hawai’i. Some of these schools operated across multiple sites. The list includes religious mission schools that received federal support, however, government funding streams were complex therefore, all religious schools receiving federal, Indian trust and treaty funds are likely not included. The final list of Indian boarding schools will surely grow as the investigation continues. For instance, the number of Catholic Indian boarding schools receiving direct funding alone is at least 113 according to records at the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.

It’s appalling. This country engaged in cultural genocide, and we’re only beginning to document what these places were like, often prompted by the discovery of unmarked graves on the sites. (I’ve seen memos from my university that they are going to search the site of the Indian boarding school on campus, but I haven’t seen much action yet). Basically, though, these weren’t schools so much as prisons for children.

The first volume of the report highlights some of the harsh conditions children endured at the schools. Children’s Indigenous names were changed to English names; children’s hair were cut; the use of their Native languages, religions and cultural practices were discouraged or prevented; and the children were organized into units to perform military drills.

The report cites findings from the 1928 Meriam report in which the Interior acknowledged “frankly and unequivocally that the provisions for the care of Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate.

How inadequate?

Examples included descriptions of accommodations at select boarding schools such as the White Earth Boarding school in Minnesota where two children slept in one bed, the Kickapoo Boarding School in Kansas where three children shared a bed and the Rainy Mountain Boarding School in Oklahoma where, “single beds pushed together so closely to preclude passage between them and each bed has two or more occupants.”

The 1969 Kennedy Report, cited in the Department investigation, noted that rampant physical, sexual and emotional abuse: disease; malnourishment; overcrowding,; and lack of health care at Indian boarding schools are well-documented.

It also found schools focused on “manual labor and vocational skills that left American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian graduates with employment options often irrelevant to the industrial U.S. economy, further disrupting Tribal economies.”

I can understand why the Republicans want to shush every mention of race from our history books, because racism seems to have been the primary operating principle of of the United States government since the moment of its inception. All that talk of “liberty” and “freedom” and “equality”, but the unspoken modifier was “for white people only.”

There are a lot of maps in the full report. You should take a look to see if your house is covered with a dark blot.


  1. William George says

    I don’t know how people think black people can get reparations for slavery when Canada and America can’t admit they genocided an entire continent.

  2. Ed Seedhouse says

    Canada was doing this right along with you. The plan was to erase first nations culture and make them into nice little white people. Except they would never have been treated like your average white person because, you know, they still had their skin colour.

  3. Bruce says

    I don’t think the lack of blots in Texas and Louisiana means anything good about the treatment of Native Americans there.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    No such schools in Louisiana or Texas??!? Some major holes in that data…

  5. Matthew Currie says

    Here in lovely, liberal Vermont, no way could….oh damn, wouldn’t you know, there’s one in Vermont, and where? Castleton Academy, practically next door. It’s hard to find, not even on some of the maps. But there it is.

  6. R. L. Foster says

    This is the real American “Great Replacement Theory.” But it wasn’t a theory. And it wasn’t Whites who were replaced. White America steadfastly refuses to label its treatment of its indigenous people in historically accurate terms. I can’t recall how many times have I’ve heard a White person say : Indians were always fighting among themselves, so how’s that any different than White people fighting Indians? Or X tribe pushed out Y tribe from their lands so it was OK for Whites to push out Z tribe, too. All the while White apologists forget the salient difference – with inter-tribal conflict the result was not total erasure. In the end it was still a Red world, a Red culture, and Red societies.

    Imagine this scenario. What if Genghis Khan had lived and the Mongols had pushed all the way to the English Channel? It could very well have happened. Paris, Brussels, Antwerp could have become Mongol cities, part of the Great Khanate. Imagine a Europe with only small enclaves of desperately poor Europeans. That’s essentially what happened in North America.

  7. consciousness razor says

    There are a lot of maps in the full report. You should take a look to see if your house is covered with a dark blot.

    That just links to the same PDF as the first one you gave at the beginning. The article at Indian Country Today contained a different link to an Appendix C, which is the one full of maps (PDF, 53 pages, also published by the Dept. of the Interior).

  8. numerobis says

    R. L. Foster: the Mongols weren’t assimilators, they were conquerers. People could live however they wanted as long as they paid taxes and didn’t rebel. Lands overrun by the Mongols (e.g. China and India) largely kept their culture and laws. Assimilation went the other way as the empire fell apart: the new rulers integrated into the local traditions.

    So sure, imagine if the Mongols had pushed all the way to the English Channel… it would have been a Europe that for a century would have been united under one empire that then would have fractured. After that century, it would likely have looked pretty similar to what actually happened with pre-existing polities reestablishing themselves. Maybe the plague would have spread a couple years faster.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    I am told there was a homicide by knife in the small rural village where I grew up ca one century ago.
    OK, systemic crime…the finn-speaking children in northeast Sweden were not permitted to speak their own language in school.
    Old-time Sweden was a dark place.

  10. PaulBC says

    This particular crime doesn’t seem to have happened in my neck of the woods (SF Bay Area). On the other hand, the California missions are still presented in a positive light to tourists and taught in elementary school.

  11. raven says

    The Ukrainians are the new Native Americans. In Russian occupied areas.
    Russians have no imagination. They are just copying us.

    This is what the ‘Russification’ of Ukraine’s education system looks like in occupied areas
    By Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Oleksandra Ochman, CNN Updated 1:05 AM ET, Mon May 16, 2022 edited for length

    Lviv, Ukraine (CNN)When masked Russian soldiers ransacked Nina’s home in northeastern Ukraine at 6 a.m. one day in late April, they were not searching for weapons. Instead, they were looking for her Ukrainian textbooks.
    Nina’s experience is not an isolated incident. Reports of threats against educators in newly occupied regions have been steadily growing as the conflict has escalated.
    One teacher told CNN that Russian troops had approached the principal of her school and “ordered her to hand over all the schoolbooks of Ukrainian language and history, but the principal refused. Her position was so strict that somehow they didn’t put any other pressure … They left emptyhanded.”

    The Russian plan here is to get rid of Ukrainian language and history by teaching children only in Russian with Russian textbooks.

    The US and Canada did the same thing to the Native Americans in the residential schools.

  12. springa73 says

    I think that areas that lacked residential schools weren’t any less cruel to their native populations, they just killed or drove them out entirely rather than confining them to reservations and trying to eliminate their independent culture. Areas with boarding schools tended to have reservations, either in the past or up to the present day.

  13. robro says

    The pull quote makes it clear that the data is incomplete which could explain why some areas are sparse. Of course, some areas are sparse because the indigenous population died from introduced diseases or were killed early on before anyone considered “civilizing” the native population. The Southeast is sparse because much of that population was relocated to Oklahoma in the 1830s to 1850s (or died on the way), so the concentration in “Indian Territory” includes the survivors of those people. Before that the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole people in the Southeast were the “Five Civilized Tribes” with their own towns, schools, governments, and even slaves. The “ethnic cleansing” known as “The Trail of Tears” came as a horrific shock to these people who thought they had binding agreements with the US government. Then came Andrew Jackson…a role model in assholery for Chump Trump to imitate.

  14. robro says

    By the way, the same sort of thing was going on under the Chump administration’s “child separation policy” that removed children from families detained at the border. Neither the Chump nor Biden administrations have been able to locate the families of all of these children.

  15. dianne says

    under the Chump administration’s “child separation policy” that removed children from families detained at the border.

    I saw a survivor of one of those detention centers speak at a rally once. She said that the children were taken away under the pretext that they were going to be given a shower. I’ve heard something similar before somewhere. Now where, where?

  16. JimB says

    Well fuck!
    That big blob in northwestern New Mexico. Gallup NM. That would be where I was born and raised.

    At least the schools were fully integrated when I went to school in the 60’s and 70’s. As I remember whites only made up about 25% of the population. Just looked it up and found 20% today.

  17. StevoR says

    I’m living on never ceded Kaurna and Peramangk Country here in the Adelaide hills.

    I read & would recommend although its exceptionally grim and depressing reading, Bruce Elder’s Blood on the Wattle book :


    a few years ago which was a horrifying eye-opener on what happened to Australia’s First Peoples during the too often overlooked, staggeringly brutal, genocidal Frontier Wars. (See also : https://australian.museum/learn/first-nations/unsettled/remembering-massacres/map-of-colonial-frontier-massacres/ ) With more formerly hidden and forgotten massacres coming to light all the time. See : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-16/aboriginal-people-genocidal-killings-massacre-map-nt-wa/100913106

  18. Jazzlet says

    Thank you StevoR, I know rather less about Australian treatment of the original inhabitants than I do about American treatment of the original inhabitants there. I suspect that some good old “British Empire = Great” crap is at work . . .