IN FOCUS Discussion: Native American boarding schools

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and implemented policies establishing and supporting Indian boarding schools across the country.

The purpose of these schools was to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly moving them from their families and communities to remote residential settings where their identities, languages ​​and beliefs were to be suppressed.

According to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, nearly 83 percent of Native American school-aged children attended residential schools in 1926. The organization said that for more than 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Native children were withdrawn from their communities, punished for preserving their tribal identity and forced to adopt white Christian values, religion, culture and language. It is believed that most American citizens are unaware of the existence of these boarding schools or the intergenerational trauma suffered by Native American communities.

In June, Home Secretary Deb Haaland announced that her department would launch an investigation, called the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. It would be a full review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies and the preparation of a report, expected to be completed in April 2022, detailing available historical documents, with a focus on cemeteries or potential burial sites. This comes after the recent discovery of 215 unmarked graves by the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation at Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada.

Intermountain Indian School (Used with permission of the Utah State Historical Society)

In an editorial for the Washington Post, Sec. Haaland wrote that she is the product of “these horrible policies of assimilation”. She explained that her maternal grandparents were stolen from their families when they were only eight years old and forced to live away from their parents, culture and community for five years.

She said the historic attempt to erase Indigenous identities continues to manifest in the disparities our Native American communities face, such as long-standing intergenerational trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, disappearances, deaths. premature births and other undocumented physiological and psychological impacts. .

To this day, residential schools continue to operate through the United States Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Education. However, the ministry said that unlike the policies of the past, these schools now aim to provide quality education to students across Indian country and empower indigenous youth to improve and improve in their communities. as they seek to practice their spirituality, learn their language and advance their culture.

The process of healing, justice and reconciliation has only just begun and begins with bringing to light these traumatic events.

In July, Utah Diné Bikéyah sent a letter to Sec. Haaland to offer their assistance in the investigation. Their 11 board members attended these residential schools as children and now form a network capable of reaching hundreds, if not thousands, of other participants. They are currently collecting stories internally and have a non-exhaustive list of resources and facility locations in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

Denae Shanidiin, Director of MMIWhoIsMissing and Angelo Baca, Cultural Resources Coordinator at Utah Diné Bikéyah joined Rosie Nguyen from ABC4 for an IN FOCUS discussion. They provided information on the history of residential schools, recent discoveries of children murdered in institutions in Canada, the experiences of family members and friends who attended these schools, how assimilation left deep scars. on our Native American population, the letter sent to Sec. Deb Haaland, and what they hope will come out of it.

For more information on Utah Diné Bikéyah and the work of their organization, visit their website. To learn more about MMIWhoIsMissing, visit their website.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Shanidiin and Baca, click on the video at the top of the article.

Watch IN FOCUS chats with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on weeknights on CW30 News at 7 p.m..


Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning reporter who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as a presenter of CW30 News at 7pm. Although no longer in the field, she pursues her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

About Joyce Hill

Check Also

Security photos show missing Spanish Fork teens in Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY — Surveillance photos appear to show two Spanish Fork teenagers who have …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.