Children were placed at the center of the imperialist target both to assimilate them and to dispossess tribal nations of their lands. This is indicated by an investigation in the United States, similar to that undertaken in Canada, in which it is ensured that at least 500 Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian children died in boarding schools managed or endorsed by the US government. his mission to uproot them by force from their origins. The robbery of families continued from the 19th century until 1969, creating an intergenerational trauma.
This is the result of a report from the Department of the Interior that was made public this Wednesday. The document identifies more than 400 schools of this type and more than fifty tombs, although it adds that many more are expected to be found,
"Basically every school had a cemetery. There are deaths and deaths in every one of the boarding schools," Preston S. McBride, a historian of Indian boarding schools and of Comanche descent, told NBC. McBride has found more than 1,000 deceased students at the four centers he has studied. According to his estimate, the number of deaths may reach 40,000.
"The United States does not even know how many native students passed through these institutions, much less how many died in them," he added.
This report represents the first time in American history that the government has attempted a full investigation and acknowledges the full extent of the horror caused to Native children for decades. The schools were founded at the beginning of the 19th century and remained in operation until the last decade of the 20th. But, like McBride, independent scholars estimated that the death toll is much higher and considered that the investigation does not delve into the circumstances of how these boys died or who was responsible. The work also sheds little light on the physical and sexual abuse that generations of indigenous children suffered in these "re-education" centers.
The report, which acknowledges the damage caused to these minors, does not include an apology from the federal executive like the one that tribal leaders have been demanding for a long time. Last month, Pope Francis apologized for the role the Catholic Church played in Canada's boarding school system, and First Nation leaders want the Holy Father to apologize in person when he visits the North American country this summer. .
"The consequences of the federal Indian boarding school policy, not to mention the intergenerational trauma caused to families by this separation and the cultural eradication carried out on generations of children, starting at the age of four, are distressing and undeniable," said Deb Haaland. , Secretary of the Interior, a citizen of Laguna Pueblo and the first Native American person to hold that position.
"We are going to continue looking for and observing evidence of this attempted assimilation by force of indigenous peoples in the disparities that communities face," he said in the statement presenting this document.
The report identifies those more than 500 deceased after examining the records of 19 of those facilities, a small number compared to the total number of internees identified. "While the investigation continues, the Department anticipates that the number of deceased will increase," the statement stressed. The number is much lower than the tens of thousands predicted by some specialists. It is also predicted that, consequently, the number of tombs found will rise greatly.
Those thousands of deaths were the result of everything from illness to abuse, McBride said from her research, in which she reviewed letters written by students, parents and school administrators. He maintained that it will take significant time to discover the true number. "There is a long road ahead," she said.
Starting in the early years of the 19th century, the US government stole native children from their homes and forced them to attend those boarding schools, where they wanted to make them lose their language and traditions, forcing them to bear names in English and subjecting them to training and drills. military.
This document specifies that 408 boarding schools were found in 37 states, which were established from 1801 to 1969. Some of these centers remained open until the 1990s.
They received funds from the federal government. Half of the centers also had the support of religious organizations or institutions, which meant money, infrastructure and personnel, the report highlights. Many of these religious institutions, in turn, received an amount from Washington for each of the children they placed in their boarding schools.
In what is considered a first step in the investigation, the report recommends continuing the investigation and trying to establish an allocation of funds. In Canada, after the truth and reconciliation commission was established, the government contributed $4.7 billion to support indigenous communities affected by these boarding schools. In the United States there is not, for now, a similar commission or an economic attribution.