Statement by the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian (MMAI) on Indian Board Schools in the United States and Canada
On July 17, 2021, the remains of nine Rosebud Sioux children were returned to their ancestral grounds on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation for burial. The children died nearly a century earlier in the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, one of the United States’ many forced boarding schools designed to eradicate indigenous culture. In May, the unmarked graves of 215 children were identified at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada. The announcement sparked international outcry and brought new attention to a devastating truth and loss felt by Native peoples in the United States and Canada today. The forced assimilation and attempted eradication of Native people through compulsory “residential schools” with a policy of “kill the Indian, save the man” resulted in the loss of life, the loss of a generation of relatives, language speakers, and culture bearers.
With that, we applaud U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary, for beginning the conversation to hold the United States government accountable through the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. The Department of the Interior will identify boarding school sites, locations of known and possible student burial sites located at or near school facilities and identify the children and their tribal affiliations to bring them home to their families.
Our hearts continue to be with the First Nation communities in Canada and Native American communities here in the United State as mass graves continue to be uncovered at residential schools that were created to destroy the vast cultures of indigenous communities by ripping children from their communities and forbidding them from practicing their culture. It is important for the United States and Canada to finally take responsibility for their past brutal policies and actions.
When the time is right, after the healing process for the numerous communities that continue to be impacted by this traumatic history, MMAI will use its platform to give boarding school survivors a voice in educating the public. In the meantime, we will advocate for the resources needed for communities to start the healing process.
For more information on the history of Native American Boarding Schools, please visit The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition website.