At least 500 Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children died while attending Indian boarding schools run or supported by the U.S. government, a highly anticipated Interior Department report said Wednesday. The report identified over 400 schools and more than 50 gravesites and said more gravesites would likely be found.
The report is the first time in U.S. history that the government has attempted to comprehensively research and acknowledge the magnitude of the horrors it inflicted on Native American children for decades. But it falls well short of some independent estimates of deaths and does not address how the children died or who was responsible. The report also sheds little new light on the physical and sexual abuse generations of Indigenous children endured at the schools, which were open for more than 150 years, starting in the early 1800s.
The report and an accompanying news release acknowledge the harms to Indigenous children but stop short of offering an apology from the federal government, which tribal leaders have been requesting for decades. Last month, Pope Francis apologized for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s boarding school system, and First Nation leaders there are asking him to apologize in person when he visits the country this summer.
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