Department of Interior Releases Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report
On May 11, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Interior released the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report.
Supervised by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, the work includes several phases of collecting records and information related to the Department of Interior’s own oversight and implementation of the Indian boarding school program; formal consultation with tribal nations to clarify the processes and procedures for protecting identified burial sites and associated information; and the submission of a written report on the investigation to the Secretary.
In an official letter included in the report, Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland highlights the major findings as follows:
- This report shows for the first time that between 1819 and 1969, the United States operated or supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states (or then-territories), including 21 schools in Alaska and seven schools in Hawaii. This report identifies each of those schools by name and location, some of which operated across multiple sites.
- 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. It identifies the Federal Indian boarding schools that were used as a means for these ends, along with at least 53 burial sites for children across this system with more site discoveries and data expected as the research continues.
- The report highlights some of the conditions children endured at these schools and raises important questions about the short-term and long-term consequences of the Federal Indian boarding school system on Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives, and the Native Hawaiian Community. Further investigation to examine those consequences is warranted.
The report concludes with recommendations based on the findings. Included in the recommendations is a continuation of the full investigation to produce a second report by the Department including (1) determining locations of marked or unmarked burial sites associated with the Federal Indian boarding school system; (2) identifying names, ages, and Tribal affiliations of children interred at such locations; and (3) approximating a full accounting of Federal support for the Federal Indian boarding school system, including a proactive approximate accounting of any Tribal and, or individual Indian trust funds held in trust by the United States used to support the Federal Indian boarding school system.
The report goes on to recommend: identification of surviving Federal Indian boarding school attendees; documentation of Federal Indian boarding school attendee experiences; support for the protection, preservation, reclamation, and co-management of sites across the Federal Indian boarding school system; development of a specific repository of Federal records involving the Federal Indian boarding school system; identification of and engagement with other Federal agencies to support the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, including those with control of any records involving the Federal Indian boarding school system or that provide health care to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians; support for non-Federal entities that may independently release records under their control; and Congressional action involving the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, advancement of Native language revitalization, promotion of Indian health research, and recognition of the generations of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children that experienced the Federal Indian boarding school system with a Federal memorial.