Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee
Today, May 12, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States will hold the first congressional hearing in history to examine the “Indian Boarding School Era,” the time period from 1819 to 1969 in which the U.S. government forcibly removed Indigenous children from their communities and placed them into government-run boarding schools to assimilate them into Euro-American society. At these schools, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students were forbidden to practice their culture, use their given names, or speak their traditional languages. If they disobeyed, they were harshly punished. Many students experienced physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, and some never returned home to their families. To this day, the United States government has never formally acknowledged or apologized for these actions.
The hearing will be livestreamed here:
The legislative hearing will consider H.R. 5444, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act, introduced by U.S. Representative. Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.), which will establish a formal commission to investigate and document the policies of the Indian Boarding School Era. The commission will develop recommendations on how the U.S. government can best acknowledge and heal the intergenerational trauma associated with the era.
Witnesses will include three boarding school survivors who will testify about their experiences and the need for this legislation. The full slate of witnesses includes:
- Mr. Matthew War Bonnet, Boarding School Survivor, Rosebud Sioux Tribe
- Dr. Ramona Charette Klein, Boarding School Survivor, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
- Mr. James LaBelle, Sr., 1st Vice President and Boarding School Survivor, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
- The Honorable Ben Barnes, Chief, Shawnee Tribe
- Ms. Deborah Parker, Chief Executive Officer, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
- Dr. Janine Pease, D.Ed., Founding President and Faculty Member, Little Big Horn College
At a press conference yesterday, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland announced the release of the first volume of an investigative report detailing an initial inventory of federal Indian boarding schools and student conditions within the boarding school system. The report is part of the Department’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative that was launched in June 2021 and its investigations are still ongoing. The report has found that between 1819 to 1969, the Indian boarding school system included 408 schools across 37 states or then-Territories, with at least 500 child deaths occurring at these institutions.
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