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Interior Dept. investigation finds burial sites at 53 Indian boarding schools

Until Wednesday, the U.S. government had yet to provide any true accounting of the legacy of such schools, including never acknowledging how many children attended them, how many children died or went missing from them or even how many schools existed.

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Artwork adorns the steps of the North Dakota Capitol building in Bismarck to honor Native American boarding school survivors and victims in October 2021.
Michelle Griffith / The Forum
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An Interior Department investigation into the dark history of Indian boarding schools has found "marked or unmarked burial sites" at some 53 schools, Secretary Deb Haaland said on Wednesday.

Haaland, the first Native American cabinet member, last year announced the investigation.

A former congresswoman from New Mexico and the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, Haaland in 2020 introduced legislation calling for a Truth and Healing Commission into conditions at former Indian boarding schools. That legislation is still pending.

"The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies ... are heartbreaking and undeniable," Haaland said in a statement. "It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous Peoples can continue to grow and heal."

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Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. In 2021, the former New Mexico congresswoman launched an investigation into boarding schools for Indigenous children.
Leigh Vogel / Pool / TNS

Conditions at former Indian boarding schools gained global attention last year when tribal leaders in Canada announced the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops residential school for indigenous children, as such institutions are known in Canada.

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Unlike the United States, Canada carried out a full investigation into its schools via a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Until Wednesday, the U.S. government had yet to provide any true accounting of the legacy of such schools, including never acknowledging how many children attended them, how many children died or went missing from them or even how many schools existed.

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A memorial for 14 students that died at the St. Paul Industrial Boarding School of Clontarf (Minn.).
Forum News Service file photo

For over 150 years, Native American children in the United States were forcibly removed from their tribes and sent to such schools beginning in 1819 in an effort at forced assimilation.

Schools were run by the U.S. government or by churches in close connection to the government. Many children were abused at the schools, and tens of thousands were never heard from again, activists and researchers say.

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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