The Stream

What will a US probe into Indigenous boarding schools uncover?

On Tuesday, July 13 at 19:30 GMT:
Beginning in the 19th century, the US government funded a system of boarding schools where hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families, taught to shun their cultural heritage and assimilate to white Christian customs. Also known as “Indian residential schools”, the system included at least 367 institutions run by various US church groups from 1819 until the end of the 1960s. According to former attendees, children were poorly cared for and many endured physical abuse, sexual abuse and forced labour.

Now the US Department of the Interior wants an investigation with a focus on finding records of children who died while they attended the schools and locating unmarked graves. The investigation’s announcement followed recent discoveries of nearly 1,000 secret graves at three former schools for Indigenous children in Canada.

A modern and comprehensive study of boarding schools and their forced assimilation policies has never been done by the US government, and much of its history – including the official number of schools and its attendees – is still not known. Advocates of boarding school survivors say the institutions have been a major source of intergenerational trauma felt in Native American communities to this day.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll discuss the legacy of Native American boarding schools and what a federal investigation of its abuses will mean to Native communities.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Christine Diindiisi McCleave, @C_McCleave
CEO, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Mary Annette Pember, @mapember
National correspondent, Indian Country Today

Maka Black Elk, @makablackelk
Executive Director of Truth and Healing, Red Cloud Indian School