The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) is pleased to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of the Interior to mutually share research to support the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative (Initiative). Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the Initiative on June 22, 2021. The Initiative is a significant first step for the United States government to begin acknowledging the traumatic history of Indian boarding schools.
“The survivors, descendants, and relatives of those who experienced these schools deserve the truth. NABS has agreed to share a decade’s worth of independent research because the United States has finally agreed to start revealing the truth about this part of American history,” said Christine Diindiisi McCleave, CEO of NABS and a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation.
NABS has long been committed to finding and sharing information such as how many schools existed, how many children went to those schools, from which Tribal Nations did they attend, and how many died or went missing. Thanks to the work of many NABS researchers over the years, we know there were at least 367 Indian boarding schools in this country. Under this Initiative, new collections of federal records are being opened and analyzed. With this commitment of federal resources now being directed toward this critical truth-telling effort, there is a tremendous opportunity to have more questions answered.
Through the MOU, NABS and the Department of the Interior will share information on available boarding school records and research in order to support the development of a report that the Department of the Interior must issue by April 1, 2022. This report will emphasize the location of boarding school facilities and sites, the location of known or possible student burial sites at or near these facilities, and the identities and Tribal affiliations of children who died at these facilities.
This MOU acknowledges that the location of sensitive places such as gravesites or unmarked graves must be protected. Tribal sovereignty must be a key component to the research and fact-finding mission of the Initiative, which has included Tribal consultations held virtually in November.
The scope of authority of the Department of the Interior is limited. This is why NABS continues to call for the passage of the “Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act,” S. 2907 and H.R. 5444. If signed into law, this Commission would be empowered to investigate all federal agencies, churches that operated schools, and private enterprises that benefitted from child labor. To read more about the federal legislation, go here.
To read the official announcement from the Department of the Interior, go here.