The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) supports the re-introduction of the bill for a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S. Act. Today, September 30, we are honoring a National Day of Remembrance for U.S. Indian Boarding Schools and calling for a full accounting of the devastating impacts of the Indian boarding school policies that tore away generations of Native American children from their families and communities. NABS is grateful to Senator Elizabeth Warren, and the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, Congresswoman Sharice Davids and Congressman Tom Cole, for their leadership in introducing this legislation, as well as all the bipartisan support and co-sponsors thus far.
This bill, along with the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative announced this June, signals that the federal government is finally ready to acknowledge the devastating consequences of the assimilative boarding school era and begin to address the ongoing intergenerational impacts of the boarding school policies. NABS urges all members of Congress to support this legislation as a first step towards the truth and healing process.
“The movement for boarding school healing has gained an international groundswell this year and we are now in an era of truth and healing,” said NABS’s Board President Ruth Anna Buffalo. “This is a movement that is rooted in the countless prayers of our ancestors and children and will not be ignored.”
NABS CEO Christine Diindiisi McCleave noted that while most of the general population of the United States is just being made aware of the history of U.S. Indian boarding schools, Native American people have lived with the unresolved grief, personal experience, and intergenerational trauma from these schools for far too long. The impacts of the Indian boarding school legacy include loss of language, culture, religion, and the permanent separation of children from their families. “Studies like ACES now confirm that childhood trauma leads to physical, emotional, and mental health disparities in adults. Native communities are in need of healing from the damage caused by this federal policy,” Diindiisi McCleave said.
NABS was formed in 2012, in part to advocate for the establishment of a federal commission on U.S. Indian Boarding Schools, similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Canada’s Residential Schools. For years, NABS has been part of a grassroots movement of boarding school survivors and descendants, tribal leaders, Native academics, researchers, and advocates who are seeking truth, justice, and healing for boarding school impacts. We would like to express our utmost gratitude to the founders of our organization, our coalition members, and all those who have supported with prayers, efforts, and donations.
The work to introduce a congressional commission has been underway for almost a decade. NABS submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2016 seeking information on the number of boarding schools that operated in the U.S., how many children attended these schools, how many children died or went missing, and additional facts related to the operation of the schools; however, these questions were never answered. Since then, NABS has been conducting this research independently.
The announcement of the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative in June this year is an important first step in the federal government taking accountability for revealing the truth. We believe a federal commission will be the most comprehensive approach that will bring together boarding school survivors with a broad cross-section of tribal representatives and experts in education, health, and children and families to fully express and understand the impacts of this federal policy of Indian child removal.
“It is crucial that a commission center the testimony of boarding school survivors, so the whole country can bear witness to their experiences and that we do it in a way that is culturally-relevant and trauma-informed,” said Diindiisi McCleave. “The work of a commission will be a necessary first step in the healing journeys for many of the generations of Native people who have experienced loss due to Indian boarding schools.”
To read more about the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act, visit our Commission webpage.
Join the Coalition and stand with us in calling for truth and healing for boarding school survivors and descendants.