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