Indian boarding schools have long been a source of unspoken trauma in the Native community. The recent discovery of 751 unmarked graves – following last month’s discovery of 215 graves – at Canadian boarding schools has revealed the atrocities Native children suffered during the boarding school era. We have always known these institutions, created in the United States under the Civilization Fund Act in 1819, attempted to strip our ancestors of their culture, force assimilation, and inflict abuse on children that has continued to manifest itself through long-standing trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, premature deaths, mental health issues and substance abuse. Now, the world knows too.
While horrifying, these revelations shed light on the truth. NHBP commends the Department of Interior for taking the first step to create healing by seeking to understand the true scope of boarding schools in the U.S. NHBP firmly believes that as the names of the children who were buried at boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada are revealed, these children must be returned to their Native communities to allow for proper feasts and ceremonies. Only then can they truly be at rest.
These uncovered hard truths will not undo the pain and heartbreak felt by many of our families. We can only hope that exposing this dark history and the historical trauma it has caused will begin to allow Native families to begin spiritually and emotionally heal from this trauma.