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Department of Interior releases report on Indian boarding schools

After a nine-month investigation, the Department of the Interior released a report this week showing the federal government operated or supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states, between 1819 and 1969, with the goal of forcibly assimilating Native American youth and making it easier to break up and remove tribal lands from Native American people, Native News Online reports.

In addition, the investigation also found 1,000 additional institutions that served the same purpose but were not boarding schools, but day schools, sanitariums, asylums, orphanages, and stand-alone dormitories.

Native American children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to these schools where they had their hair cut, were reassigned English names and were forbidden from speaking their Native languages or practicing their cultures.

“This report confirms that the United States directly targeted American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children in the pursuit of a policy of cultural assimilation that coincided with Indian territorial dispossession,” Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland wrote in a letter accompanying the report. “I believe that this historical context is important to understanding the intent and scale of the Federal Indian boarding school system, and why it persisted for 150 years.”

The investigation identified marked and unmarked burial sites at 53 schools. However, the investigation into burial sites has not been finished, and Newland is recommending a second report to focus specifically on burial sites associated with the federal Indian boarding school system, including the names, ages and tribal affiliations of children buried.