The boarding school era for Native American children in America began with the opening of the Carlisle School in 1879. It was considered a more "merciful" solution to what was then thought of as "the Indian problem."
It continued until the passage of the Indian Child Welfare act in 1978, when Native parents finally gained the legal right to deny their children's placement in off-reservation schools.
Even so, it's left a legacy of intergenerational trauma that haunts many Native communities to this day.
It was a similar story in Canada, where over 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were placed in these schools. The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.
But in Canada, the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government of Canada, issued a formal apology in 2008 to former students, their families, and communities for Canada's role in the operation of the residential schools. A class-action lawsuit in that country resulted in the formation of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission, and through testimony hearings, a seven-volume report and more, the truth finally came out and people could begin the process of healing and reconciliation.
Here in America, a Freedom of Information Act request for boarding school records has been filed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
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Learn more about the work of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition here.
Learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada here.