U.S. to investigate former Indian boarding schools, find any remains

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior Secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. February 23, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

June 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. government will investigate the dark history of Indian boarding schools, and work to find the remains of children who died in them, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said on Tuesday.

Haaland, a former congresswoman from New Mexico and the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary, last year introduced legislation calling for a Truth and Healing Commission into conditions at former Indian boarding schools.

Haaland did not provide details on exactly how the Interior Department would carry out the investigation but she said that given that it oversaw the schools, it was uniquely positioned to do so.

"We must shed light on the traumas of the past," Haaland said in remarks delivered via video to the National Congress of American Indians. "We must uncover the truth about the loss of human life, and the lasting consequences of these schools."

The department would work on discovering who attended the schools, where the schools were located and to find the remains of children who died there.

Conditions at former Indian boarding schools gained global attention last month 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.

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

The U.S. government has 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.

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. Many children were abused at the schools, and tens of thousands were never heard from again, activists and researchers say. read more

The Interior Department oversaw the Indian boarding schools and carried out the policies of removing children from tribes in an attempt to forcibly assimilate Native Americans.

Reporting by Brad Brooks; editing by Grant McCool

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