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Interior gives $4 million to fund oral history of Native American boarding school survivors

A photo from 1901 of a group of seven Native American male students sitting in chairs, facing the camera. None of them are smiling. A white female teacher is standing behind them.
Courtesy Of The Nevada State Museum
The first graduating class of the Stewart Indian School in 1901 in Carson City, Nev.

The federal government is taking new steps to preserve the oral history of Native American boarding schools that were run by governments and churches.

For more than 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Native American children were forced to attend boarding schools created to strip them of their culture. The children's hair was cut off, their traditional clothes were burned, and many were beaten.

Now, the U.S. Department of the Interior is giving nearly $4 million to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. The group will create a permanent collection of survivors’ stories – testimonies that tribal governments, policymakers and the public can access.

The group also wants Congress to pass the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act. The bill would establish a commission to investigate and document the past injustices of boarding school policies.

Congresswoman Sharice Davids of Kansas, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, spoke about that proposal in a recent webinar.

“We can make sure that this legacy, this history, the full truth of these policies is not just acknowledged, but that we do something to start to address that chapter of our legacy,” Davids said.

So far, the commission bill has not passed either chamber in Congress.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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