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Newscast 05.11.22: Investigation shows hundreds of deaths at Indian Boarding Schools, and the numbers could climb further

US Indian Industrial Boarding School in Genoa, Nebraska
US Indian Industrial Boarding School in Genoa, Nebraska

A first-of-its-kind federal study of Native American boarding schools that for over a century sought to assimilate Indigenous children into white society has identified more than 500 student deaths at the institutions so far, according to the Associated Press. But officials say that figure could grow exponentially as research continues. There have been several such boarding schools in Nebraska and South Dakota. The US Industrial Indian School in Genoa has been named as place that is being investigated.

The Interior Department report released today expands to more than 400 the number of schools that were known to have operated across the U.S. for 150 years. The schools were opened in the early 19th century and coincided with the removal of many tribes from their ancestral lands. It identified the deaths in records for about 20 of them.

The dark history of the boarding schools — where children were forced from their families, prohibited from speaking their Native American languages and often abused — has been felt deeply across Indian Country and through generations.

A pair of South Dakota law enforcement officials have been named to a federal commission tasked with helping improve how the government addresses a decades-long crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Rapid City Police Chief Don Hedrick and Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Peterman will join the panel of nearly 40 law enforcement officials, tribal leaders, social workers and survivors of violence that was announced by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last week. Native American people have consistently accounted for roughly 70% of the state’s missing people in recent years.

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