A new report by the Interior Department has documented the deaths of 500 Indigenous children at Indian boarding schools run or supported by the federal government in the United States, but the actual death toll is believed to be far higher. The report also located 53 burial sites at former schools. The report marks the first time the agency has documented some of the dark history at the schools, known for their brutal assimilation practices, forcing students to change their clothing, language and culture. The report was ordered by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is a member of the Laguna Pueblo and whose grandparents were forced to attend boarding school at the age of 8. Haaland spoke on Wednesday.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland: “I come from ancestors who endured the horrors of the Indian boarding school assimilation policies carried out by the same department that I now lead. This department was responsible for operating what we now know to be 408 federal boarding schools across 37 states or then-territories, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven schools in Hawaii. Now we are uniquely positioned to assist in the effort to recover the dark history of these institutions that have haunted our families for too long.”