Americans, especially members of the Native American community, are in shock following the revelation of over 500 Native American student deaths at US boarding schools.
The deaths of the Native American children were confirmed as part of the first stage of a federal study of boarding schools that operated for over a century, supposedly, to assimilate the indigenous children into white society between 1819 and 1969.
The number of deaths uncovered could be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; the US Interior Department warns that, with further investigation, the number of known student deaths could amount to thousands or even tens of thousands.
The initial findings of the comprehensive study have cast a spotlight on the dark history of more than 400 Native American boarding schools, notorious for brutal conditions.
Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were forced by the US Federal Government to attend these institutions. The children were separated from their families by force, forbidden from speaking their native languages, and often sexually abused.
A large number of these innocent children never returned home.
The painful legacy of the notorious system, which was run by the government and the Church, has been felt deeply across Indian Territory and through many generations.
The high profile federal review was ordered by the US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last year after the discovery of unmarked graves at the site of former residential schools in neighboring Canada.
So it's the same history really, the thing is the United States had such a huge population of native people, such a wealth of anthropology, if you could imagine what anthropologists today would give to be able to ... record all those languages and take pictures, but they're gone.
You can't ever record the dead civilizations and if they were allowed to live, the Earth would be so much wealthier. It's really just a terrible, terrible tragedy; that that is the real genocide. That's genocide number one.
Eric Walberg, Journalist
The US interior department's report released on Wednesday 11th May 2022, highlighted instances of beatings, withholding of food, solitary confinement and other forms of abuse at US boarding schools.
US Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, whose grandparents attended such schools, seems to be very serious about the investigation. She has ordered her agency to fully investigate what remains of the evidence of the horrific abuses.
Now we are uniquely positioned to assist in the effort to uncover the dark history of these institutions that have haunted our families for too long.
US Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland
Haaland asserts that the consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies, including the trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted on generations of children as young as four years old, are heartbreaking and undeniable.
Brian Newland, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, believes further investigation is needed to better understand the lasting effects of the boarding school system on American Indians, and most importantly, that there is not a single American Indian, Alaskan native, or native Hawaiian, in the country whose life has not been impacted by the notorious boarding school system.
Meanwhile, the National Native American boarding school healing coalition, warned that efforts to find the remains of the indigenous children must continue until the United States fully accounts for the genocide committed against Native American children.
The latest findings are shedding light on the plight of Native Americans in the United States, who are still suffering from many problems including racial discrimination.
Pressure is mounting on the US establishment to come to terms with and learn lessons from its dark past.