Call For Testimonies Of Missing Native American Boarding School Students

Jul 6, 2017

Historical photos of Northern Arapaho members, some of whom attended Carlisle Boarding School. The tribe petitioned to have remains from the school returned to them for re-burial on the Wind River Reservation.
Credit Melodie Edwards / Wyoming Public Radio

The National Congress of American Indians recently adopted a resolution to document the stories of Native American families who lost relatives during the boarding school era of the late 1800's through the 1970's. Those testimonies will then be submitted to the United Nations.

The hope is to heal the historical trauma of the boarding schools by getting the federal government to acknowledge and apologize for the harm they caused tribal communities.

Christine McCleave is the Director for the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, one of the groups inviting native families to share their stories of relatives who went missing from the schools.

She says many children never returned, either because they died of disease or abuse while they were there or ran away. Once collected the stories will be filed with the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID). McCleave says it’s time the world heard them.

“Basically, we’re asking people to share the call for testimony with their tribal communities and on social media. To talk with their relatives and ask if anyone in their family went missing at boarding school and then to contact us with their testimony,” said McCleave.

McCleave said many children died of abuse or disease at the schools. But she warned that sharing such stories can re-traumatize people, even as it heals.

“It’s a very sensitive subject and so we do encourage people to make sure that if they’re going to bring these testimonies and stories to the surface that they have that support for emotional, mental, spiritual wellbeing.”

If you have a story of a missing boarding school student to share, go to