Native Americans: Hundreds of children died in boarding schools

Status: 13/05/2022 09:23

It’s a dark chapter in US history, now it’s about getting along: Graves and remains of children’s bodies were discovered near former boarding schools for indigenous peoples. The numbers are likely to rise.

By Nina Barth, ARD Studio Washington

They were torn from their families, and some never returned: children of Indians. In boarding schools, they should be re-educated, forgetting their history and culture. Many were tortured, mistreated, abused.

Nina Bart

Nina Bart
ARD Studio Washington

When U.S. Secretary of the Interior Debra Haaland presented the report on conditions at these boarding schools, she fought back tears. What happened was “heartbreaking and undeniable.”

More than 500 deaths

Between 1819 and 1969, there were more than 400 of these mandatory boarding schools for Native American children in the United States, run by the federal government or by churches. There have been more than 500 deaths at 19 boarding schools, the report said.

Marked or anonymous burial sites were found at more than 50 sites. The numbers are likely to rise.

Haaland is himself a descendant of natives. “The fact that I stand here today as the first native minister testifies to the strength and determination of the indigenous peoples. I am here because my ancestors persevered,” Haaland said.

Anonymous Graves in Canada

“I owe my mother and grandmother the strength and will of my life. And the work we will do with the federal initiative to come to terms with this will have a profound impact on future generations.”

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior commissioned the report after anonymous graves were discovered at former boarding schools for Aboriginal children in Canada last year.

To come to terms with the dark past

Deborah Parker of the Tulalib Tribe in Washington is chairing an initiative by more than 80 organizations that care about indigenous peoples’ rights and coming to terms with the dark past. “So many of our children have been taken away and never returned,” she told PBS.

“Right now, a member of the Alaska Native tribe told me that his mother was locked inside the basement of one of the boarding schools. She was chained to a heater and she was beaten – daily,” Parker said. “And hearing these stories, knowing that our loved ones have suffered so indescribably, is a heavy burden.”

A first step

Parker welcomed the official inquiry. But more needs to happen, she said: “It means the government apologizes, but not just apologizes, there is some form of compensation.”

“I have no prescription for this compensation,” Parker said. “But we’re about to reach the point where we’re telling our story. And I think the rest comes when we listen to our elders while we hear the stories.”

The study report released by the U.S. Department of the Interior may be a first step in that direction. The treatment will take a long time.

Shocking report: Hundreds of children died at Native American boarding schools

Nina Barth, ARD Washington, May 13, 2022 at 8:29

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