At the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), our thoughts have been with our boarding school survivors and their families over the past few months, as the intergenerational trauma we all live with due to the legacy of Indian boarding schools is brought to the forefront again. We have remained insistent that mental health supports and additional trauma resources are needed for our communities and are more urgent than ever.
NABS and the National Indian Health Board initiated these requests and Congressional leaders have issued an urgent message to the Indian Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Interior. In a letter signed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Congresswoman Sharice Davids, and 19 other members of Congress, they called for protections to be put in place for those who will experience trauma as further revelations emerge during the Department of Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative.
“The first step we need to take is caring for our boarding school survivors,” said NABS’s Director of Policy and Advocacy Deborah Parker (Tulalip Tribes). “We are grateful that Sen. Warren, Congresswoman Davids and the Congressional members who signed this letter have recognized the importance and urgency of putting in place trauma-informed supports for our American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian relatives.”
NABS’S CEO Christine Diindiisi McCleave (Turtle Mountain Anishinaabe) also pointed to resources that are available in Canada to survivors of residential schools, such as a national hotline, as an example of steps that could be implemented in the United States. Recently, the federal government in Canada also committed to spending $107 million on mental health, culture and emotional services to support healing from boarding school intergenerational trauma. This was part of $321 million in new funding that also includes helping Indigenous communities search burial sites at former residential schools.
“We believe that healing will need to be community-led and Tribal Nations should be at the forefront of determining what mental, spiritual and physical supports their citizens will need as this truth-telling process unfolds,” said Diindiisi McCleave.
NABS continues to advocate for a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools, as the most complete step toward fully uncovering the truth, uplifting survivors, and charting a path toward healing.
“A Commission would open up a healing space for boarding school survivors who want to come forward with their stories,” said NABS Board Member Jim LaBelle, Sr. (Inupiaq), a boarding school survivor who attended the Wrangell Institute and Mt. Edgecumbe in Alaska. “It would also allow for a diverse group of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian representatives to work together on developing recommendations to the federal government for how to support healing historical and intergenerational trauma caused by the Indian Boarding School policies.”
We encourage those who are struggling with trauma from boarding school impacts to seek mental health, traditional healing or community supports. A list of resources to start with are available on our website.