United American Indians of New England (UAINE), the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB) and their allies took over the entrance of Boston’s Basilica Church Sept. 30 to commemorate the “National Day For Truth and Reconciliation” in so-called Canada. Commonly known as Orange Shirt Day, Sept. 30 commemorates the tens of thousands of Indigenous children kidnapped and imprisoned by Canadian settler authorities in residential “schools.” The U.S. government also operated a murderous system of boarding “schools,” where settler authorities forced kidnapped Native children to “assimilate” into white settler culture.
Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona – On Friday, Jan. 20, the United States Department of Interior hosted a fourth community listening session on its year-long “Road to Healing” tour. The tour is a result of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative launched by U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland within months of her confirmation by the U.S. Senate on June 22, 2021. “Federal Indian boarding school policies have touched every single Indigenous person I know,” said U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland at the listening session on Jan. 20 in Laveen, Arizona. “Some are survivors, some are descendants, but we all carry the trauma in our hearts.” “My ancestors, and many of yours, endured the horrors of the Indian boarding school assimilation policies of the Department I now lead,” Haaland said. A citizen of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, Haaland is the first Native American to serve in a president’s cabinet. “This is the first time in history that a United States Secretary comes to the table with this shared trauma,” she said.
Officials announced Saturday that the federal government and 325 First Nations have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit, seeking reparations for the loss of language and culture brought on by Indian residential schools, for $2.8 billion. The agreement still has to be approved by a Federal Court before it can be disbursed to recipients, who filed the claim for collective compensation in 2012 as part of a broader class action known as the Gottfriedson case. Canada agreed to pay the $2.8 billion of settlement money into a new trust fund that will operate for 20 years, if the court approves the deal. The fund will be run independent of the federal government, according to officials. The fund organization will be governed by a board of nine Indigenous directors, of whom Canada will choose one, the agreement says.
Speaker Ronald Mariano must call for an immediate floor vote towards the passage of An Act to Protect Native American Heritage. The November 10 Harvard statement is indicative of a broader issue of how our sacred objects and our human remains continue to be held captive for racist, eugenicist, and colonialist means,” said Jean-Luc Pierite, member of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, and president of North American Indian Center of Boston, “We must act to refine the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) enforcement on the state level to include all publicly funded entities. Consultation and repatriation or rematriation are essential to putting our ancestors to rest. We mourn especially for children separated from their families and lost to boarding schools.
Boston, MA - According to Jean-Luc Pierite, President of the Board of the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), “We want to show our solidarity today with all those internationally observing Orange Shirt Day. We must honor the thousands of children who were forced into residential schools where they suffered and too often died. The governments of Canada and the United States continue to take a disproportionate number of Indigenous children into foster care. These governments further fail to address access to clean water on tribal lands. Canada and the US continue to boost pipelines and other extractive projects. Meanwhile the crisis of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women goes underreported and under-investigated.”
I want to recognize the importance of the Pope’s apology to Survivors, their families, and communities. For many Survivors, I know that hearing the words of contrition from the Pope was, and is, an essential factor in their personal recoveries and growth. My thoughts and prayers were with them as they listened. Despite this historic apology, the Holy Father’s statement has left a deep hole in the acknowledgment of the full role of the Church in the Residential School system by placing blame on individual members of the Church. It is essential to underscore that the Church was not just an agent of the state, nor simply a participant in government policy, but was a lead co-author of the darkest chapters in the history of this land.
The U.S. Department of Interior released its investigative report Wednesday on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. It’s being called the first volume of the report and comes nearly a year after the department announced a “comprehensive” review. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Bryan Newland, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, Deborah Parker who is the chief executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and James LaBelle Sr., a boarding school survivor and the first vice president of the coalition's board, spoke at a news conference in Washington announcing the report’s findings. “The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old — are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Haaland said in a statement.
National awareness about the role of the federal government and Christian churches in the U.S. Indian boarding school policy is growing rapidly. Ignited by the discoveries of children’s graves at Canada’s Indian residential schools, the U.S. is poised to face its own reckoning for a similar history. The Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition seized on the growing awareness during its Healing in a Time of Truth and Justice Summit, held virtually on Nov. 19-20. Presenters at this year’s summit encouraged people to reach out to their congressional representatives in support of the Truth and Healing Commission on U.S. Indian Boarding Schools Act that was reintroduced to Congress on Sept. 30 by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and U.S. Reps. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, Ho-Chunk, and Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation.
Philadelphia - The School District of Philadelphia is working to repatriate Native American skeletal remains found in a high school classroom closet this summer. A letter sent to parents of Central High School students Friday said the “human skeletal item” was previously used as a teaching aid and dated back to the 1850s. The district consulted with the Department of Interior, Temple University and other experts about how to handle the remains, Evelyn Nunez, the district's chief of schools wrote in the letter to parents. “The District is also working with these partners to return this person, who has been identified as a male Native American, to his home tribe,” she said.
From 1857 to 1932, hundreds of Native youth from across the state and as far as Alaska were taken to the Tulalip Boarding School. There, they were beaten for speaking their Native languages. They began industrial jobs as elementary age students. They didn’t get to see their parents for ten months of the year, and many of them never came home. The school closed in 1932, and for many families, the wounds are fresh.
Some Canadians bristle at the suggestion that Canada has committed genocide. But the discovery of over 6,000 unmarked graves at residential schools has shocked Canadians into realizing that such atrocities occurred in their country. This is what we had to reflect upon during the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30. According to the United Nations, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
A sea of orange flowed down Dollarton Highway on Sept. 30 as members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation community, and family members from Musqueam and Squamish nations, took part in a pilgrimage walk to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The rain did not dampen the spirits of community members who gathered at the Tsleil-Waututh Reserve administration building at 9 a.m. on Thursday, to walk 8.5 kilometres to the site of the former St. Paul’s Residential School, now home to St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Secondary School. The morning began with drumming and song and an uplifting, positive feeling grew amongst the crowd as more than 100 members began the journey. It was also a sombre time for many members, as they retraced the steps their relatives took every day to “school.”
On August 14, protestors in Canada toppled a statue of John A. Macdonald, the country’s first prime minister. Macdonald was responsible for some of the most atrocious crimes against Indigenous people. This includes instituting a policy of starving Indigenous people in order to clear lands where they lived for building the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
Carlisle, Pa. — Twenty-three-year-old Christopher Eagle Bear from the Rosebud Sioux tribe in South Dakota has been growing out his hair since he visited the site of the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School six years ago. The trip, made by the Rosebud Sioux youth council in 2015, sparked a group of young tribal members to initiate a tribe-backed resolution to bring home their nine ancestors who died at the school as children some 140 years ago. Six years after his initial visit, Eagle Bear’s hair falls down below the waist of his traditional regalia. He is back in Carlisle this week to bring his relatives home. The Army’s Office of Army Cemeteries, which oversees the former school grounds, has agreed to exhume the remains of nine Rosebud Sioux children and return them to the tribe on Wednesday, July 14.