Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative

I know that this process will be long and difficult. I know that this process will be painful. It won’t undo the heartbreak and loss we feel. But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we’re all proud to embrace.”   
— Secretary Deb Haaland 

Between 1819 through the 1970s, the United States implemented policies establishing and supporting Indian boarding schools across the nation. The purpose of federal Indian boarding schools was to culturally assimilate American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children by forcibly removing them from their families, communities, languages, religions and cultural beliefs. While children attended federal boarding schools, many endured physical and emotional abuse and, in some cases, died.

In June 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a comprehensive effort to recognize the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies with the goal of addressing their intergenerational impact and to shed light on the traumas of the past.

The announcement directed the Department, under the leadership of Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, to prepare an investigative report detailing available historical records relating to federal Indian boarding schools and to develop the first official list of sites. This report lays the groundwork for the continued work of the Interior Department to address the intergenerational trauma created by historical federal Indian boarding school policies. It reflects an extensive and first-ever inventory of federally operated schools, including profiles and maps.

As part of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative and in response to recommendations from the report, Secretary Haaland launched “The Road to Healing.” This year-long commitment to travel across the country will allow American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian survivors of the federal Indian boarding school system the opportunity to share their stories, help connect communities with trauma-informed support, and facilitate collection of a permanent oral history.

To date, Secretary Haaland and Assistant Secretary Newland have visited the following communities on “The Road to Healing” tour, with more expected:  

As the Department finalizes Volume 2 of the investigative report and continues “The Road to Healing” tour, we have also launched an oral history project that will document and make accessible the experiences of the generations of Indigenous children who attended the federal boarding school system. The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has received a grant through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to create this permanent oral history collection and ensure stories and experiences that survivors share can be heard by, and learned from, current and future generations. Funding for this initiative has been made possible in part by investments from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Mellon Foundation. 


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