Earlier this summer, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to examine the troubled legacy of the federal boarding school policies in the United States. Haaland issued a memorandum on June 22, 2021, in which she shared the initiative’s goals and announced that Interior will be undertaking an investigation “of the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools.”
From 1819 through the 1960s, the United States established boarding schools to culturally assimilate Indian children by forcibly removing them from their families and communities and relocating them to residential facilities. At these facilities, Indian children endured cultural, physical, and mental abuse resulting in intergenerational trauma. Many of these children never made the journey home, were never identified, and their locations remain unknown.
Secretary Haaland’s boarding school initiative will identify facilities and sites, burial sites located at or near school facilities, and the identities and tribal affiliations of children buried at these locations. The initiative will include formal tribal consultations that we will announce here. A final report of the investigation will be submitted to the secretary on April 1, 2022.
The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) and First Nations in Canada have designated September 30 as a National Day of Remembrance for Boarding Schools. More information about NABS and the National Day of Remembrance for Boarding Schools can be found here.
Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP works to protect and promote the interests of tribal governments and tribal enterprises. To learn more about our work in support of tribes and how we can assist, contact attorney Thomasina Real Bird in our Colorado office at 303-926-5292.