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New report investigates traumatic legacy of of federal Indian boarding schools

The Teller Institute in Grand Junction was one of the federally-run Indian boarding schools in Colorado.

A new report by the US Interior Department is sharply critical of the Indian boarding school system used as a tool to assimilate indigenous people during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The system included hundreds of institutions across thirty seven states.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland says the report finds that schools inflicted intergenerational trauma, through family separations and cultural eradication.

“The languages, cultures, religions, traditional practices and even the history of Native communities - all of it was targeted for destruction,” said Haaland at an event Wednesday announcing the report. “Nowhere is that clearer than in the legacy of federal Indian boarding schools.”

Burial sites were also identified at more than fifty of the schools, and the report says more will likely be found as investigations continue.

The report also includes the first ever official inventory of federally-run Indian Boarding Schools, including profiles of the institutions and maps showing their locations. According to those maps, the Four Corners region has one of the highest concentrations of Indian boarding schools anywhere in the country.

The Interior Department says the new report is part of an ongoing effort to address the schools’ troubled legacy, and further reports will be released in the future.

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Lucas is the News Director for KSJD Community Radio. His work focuses on serving the public of the Four Corners with responsible, factual reporting.