DOI launches project on Native American boarding schools

Department of the Interior officials on Tuesday announced an oral history project to document experiences of generations of Indigenous children who attended federal Native American boarding schools. 

The effort is part of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative directed by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. It is to ensure stories and experiences that survivors share can be available for current and future generations.  
Interior Department and Smithsonian National Museum of American History officials are in ongoing discussions about how to support this work. 

“Creating a permanent oral history collection about the federal [Native American] boarding school system is part of the Department’s mission to honor its political, trust and legal responsibilities, and commitments to tribes,” Haaland said. “The U.S. government has never before collected the experiences of boarding school survivors, which tribes have long advocated for to memorialize the experiences of their citizens who attended federal boarding schools. This is a significant step in our efforts to help communities heal and to tell the full story of America.” 

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) is to receive a total of $3.7 million in grant money for the project. The funding through the Bureau of Indian Affairs was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which has committed $4 million to support the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. 

Volume one of the investigative report, issued in May 2022, represented a significant step by the federal government to comprehensively address facts and consequences of historical federal Native American boarding school policies, which stemmed from the twin goals of cultural assimilation and territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples through forced removal and relocation of their children. Volume two is expected to be published by the end of 2023. 

In response to recommendations of the initial report, Haaland launched a year-long commitment to “The Road to Healing,” traveling nationwide to give Indigenous survivors the opportunity to share their stories and be connected with trauma-informed support.  

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The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition is based in Minneapolis. Their phone number is 612-354-7700. 

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