At least 500 Native American children died and were buried at “boarding schools” established or supported by the U.S. government — a number that only scratches the surface of the potentially tens of thousands of children who actually perished — a report from the Department of the Interior released Wednesday revealed. The schools were tools of ethnic cleansing, in which children were taken from their homes, forced to assimilate into white society, and barred from preserving or practicing their own language and culture.
“If you want to change the culture,” Dakota Sioux historian Jeanne Eder Rhodes told the Arizona Republic, “the first thing you do is take away their children and put them where they can’t access their culture.” Native American communities have and continue to be disproportionately harmed by extractive industries and the impacts of climate change. “Our children had names,” Deborah Parker, CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, told reporters. “Our children had homes. They had families. They had their languages, their regalia, their prayers and religions.” (Arizona Republic, Indian Country Today, AP, Buzzfeed, E&E News, NPR, New York Times $, The Hill, ABC, Axios, Business Insider, CNN)