Washington, DC – FCNL welcomed the release of the first volume of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative’s long-awaited investigative report. Assembled by the Department of the Interior, this report serves as historic documentation of the trauma inflicted by Indian boarding schools. It also underscores the need for further reckoning on this vital issue, both in Congress and in the Quaker and faith communities.
According to the report, between 1819 and 1969, there were 408 schools across 37 states (or then-territories). Quakers managed at least 30 Indian boarding schools, and the conditions at these institutions were often horrific. These schools aimed to “assimilate” Native children through tactics such as renaming children with English names, cutting their hair, prohibiting the use of Native languages and religions, extensive military drills, and manual labor. Abuse ran rampant, including the withholding of food, solitary confinement, and physical punishment.
The investigation also found 53 burial sites at boarding school locations. More burial sites are expected to be identified as the Department of the Interior continues work on the second volume of the report.
“This new report shines a much-needed light on the atrocities committed at Indian boarding schools, some of which were run by Quakers,” said FCNL General Secretary Bridget Moix. “We commend the Department of the Interior for doing this difficult work and we remain committed to doing our part to advance the reckoning and healing process for this dark chapter in American history.”
“Further, we call on the faith community at large to share records and accounts of their administration of these schools. Only through complete honesty and transparency can we begin moving towards a more just future,” she continued.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland created the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative last year to investigate the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of these schools. The report was assembled with the input of tribal governments, Alaska Native villages, and Native Hawaiian communities.
However, while the report is a strong start, more work remains. FCNL and Indigenous partners such as the National Congress of American Indians and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition continue to call for the passage of the bipartisan Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444).
If passed, this bill would complement the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative by establishing the first formal commission in U.S. history to investigate and document the harm caused by Indian boarding schools. The Truth and Healing Commission would conduct deeper research over the course of five years and recommend further federal action.
“The Interior report is crucial to getting a more complete understanding of the trauma and loss inflicted by these assimilation institutions. Families deserve to know what happened to their loved ones, and to have their remains returned home,” said Portia K. Skenandore-Wheelock, FCNL’s congressional advocate for Native American policy.
“Congressional action must also be taken to expand on these findings. An all-government approach is necessary to fully address the intergenerational consequences of the boarding school era, which continue to impact tribal communities to this day.”
To learn more, please visit www.fcnl.org.