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Native Americans: Hundreds of children die in boarding schools

Status: 05/13/2022 09:23 am

This is a dark chapter in American history, and now it has to come to terms: the remains of graves and bodies of children were found near former boarding schools for indigenous peoples. The number is likely to increase.

By Nina Barth, ARD Studio Washington

They were torn from their families and some did not return: children of Native Americans. They need to be re-educated in boarding schools and forget about their history and culture. Many were tortured, mistreated, and abused.

Nina Bart
ARD Studio Washington

When US Secretary of State Debra Hollande presented a report on the conditions of these boarding schools, she struggled with tears. What happened was “heartbreaking and undeniable”.

More than 500 deaths

Between 1819 and 1969 there were more than 400 compulsory boarding schools in the United States for Native American children, run by the federal government or by churches. More than 500 were killed in 19 boarding schools, the report said.

Marked or anonymous burials were found in more than 50 locations. The number is likely to increase.

Holland is of Aboriginal descent. “The fact that I am here today as Home Minister is a testament to the strength and determination of the tribal people. I came here because my ancestors were diligent,” Hollande said.

Anonymous Cemeteries in Canada

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

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior issued the report following the discovery of anonymous graves in boarding schools for aboriginal children in Canada last year.

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Comes in harmony with the dark past

Deborah Parker, of the Tulali tribe in Washington, D.C., is the leader of more than 80 organizations that care about the rights of indigenous peoples and adapt to the dark past. “Many of our children were taken away and never returned,” he told PBC.

“Now, a native of Alaska told me that his mother was locked in the basement of a boarding school. He was chained to a heater and beaten every day,” Parker said. “Listening to these stories is a great burden to know that our loved ones have suffered indescribably.”

A first step

Parker welcomed the official hearing. But more needs to happen, he said: “That means the government is not only apologizing, but there is some kind of compensation.”

“I have no medicine for this compensation,” Parker said. “But we’ve getting to tell our story. I think the rest will come when we listen to what our adults have to say, when we listen to stories.”

The investigation report released by the US Department of the Interior may be the first step in that direction. Processing takes a long time.