Federal Indian Boarding Schools: Addressing wrongdoings of America’s past

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scan from original(Eric Mortenson | Minnesota Historical Society Pho)
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 8:44 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR 6) --Pope Francis is in Canada this week, issuing historic apologies for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the abuse of Indigenous children at boarding schools that went on for decades.

Similar schools were in America.

This past May, the United States Department of the Interior released an investigative report on the country’s Federal Indian Boarding Schools.

These schools were originally established and run by Christian missionaries, who were eventually financially supported by the federal government.

The report found between 1819 and 1969, the U.S. operated or supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states.

Minnesota was home to 21 of those schools, Wisconsin 10, and Michigan 5.

In the Northland, there was Minnesota’s Nett Lake Boarding and Day School near Orr and the Vermilion Lake Indian School in Tower.

In Wisconsin there was Bayfield Mission Boarding and Day School, the Hayward Boarding School, and Lac du Flambeau Boarding School.

Indigenous children as young as 4 were stolen from their families and forced into assimilation.

Leaders at the schools cut the children’s hair, forced them to wear American-style uniforms, forbid the speaking of Indigenous languages, and replaced tribal names with anglicized versions.

Tadd Johnson was recently appointed by Governor Tim Walz to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

He will be the first person of Native descent on the board, and said his grandparents were survivors of the Vermilion Lake Indian School.

“The boarding schools what they succeeded in, is having a totally devastating effect on Native American families for generations to follow,” Johnson said. “To the extent that dysfunctionality exists on reservations -- those boarding schools played a very large part.”

Johnson said many children at the boarding schools were punished with violent acts, like having kerosene poured over their bodies if they disobeyed orders.

The federal investigation found at many of the boarding schools, there were burial sites, as many children died from the abuse.

The second volume of the investigative report will include more identification of marked and unmarked burial sites.

Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has announced a year-long tour, “The Road to Healing,” which will see survivors of the boarding schools sharing their stories.

For the full report, click here.

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