Burial Sites at Former Native American Boarding Schools Highlight Horrific Treatment of Indigenous Students

Fifty-three unmarked and marked burial sites at former Native American boarding schools across the country are part of a new report highlighting the trauma and horrific treatment of Indigenous students, CBS News reported.

The Department of Interior released a report Wednesday which uncovered and showcased the violent treatment of Indigenous students at more than 400 Indian boarding schools run by the federal government between 1819 and 1969, according to CBS News.

It is the first time the United States government has acknowledged such events.

Over 500 American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children died at 19 of the federal Indian boarding schools, according to the report.

Deb Haaland, who oversees the Department of Interior, spoke at a news conference to announce the findings and said, “We are uniquely positioned to assist in the effort to undercover the dark history of these institutions that have haunted our families for too long.”

“As a pueblo woman, it is my responsibility and, frankly, it’s my legacy,” she added.

Haaland, the first and only Native American Cabinet secretary, has the support of President Joe Biden to investigate further, Associated Press reported. Congress has provided her department with $7 million for its work on the next phase of the report, which will focus on burial sites, and identifying Native children and their ages, Associated Press reported.

The boarding schools, which started in the 1800s, saw Indigenous children “selected” from reservations and moved away from their families to attend the government-chartered schools, which were often subcontracted and operated by Presbyterian, Catholic and Episcopalian religious organizations, the report said, according to CBS News.

Once at the schools, the children had their hair cut and were given English names, they were also forced to adhere to strict curriculum which featured classes in English, obedience, cleanliness and Christianity, the report said.

If a student was out of step or problematic, they were “subject to corporal punishment, including solitary confinement; flogging; withholding food; whipping; slapping; and cuffing,” the report said.

Older children were forced to inflict punishment on younger children, CBS News reported.

The schools also had “rampant physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; disease; malnourishment; overcrowding; and lack of health care,” according to the report.

At some boarding schools, several children were forced to sleep in one bed, according to the report.

There were 408 federally run schools in 37 states. Oklahoma had the highest number of schools, with 76, followed by 44 in Arizona, 43 in New Mexico and 30 in South Dakota, according to the Department of Interior.

The schools were often located at active or inactive military bases across the country.

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