**UPDATE** Following the airing of this report, Rep. Buffalo pointed out to KX News that she would like to see both a passed bill to create the Truth and Healing Commission in North Dakota, as well as S.2907: Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act at the federal level. North Dakota House Bill 1488 failed to pass during the 67th Legislative Assembly.
BISMARCK, N.D (KXNET) — Volume one of an investigative report about the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative has been released from the U-S Department of the Interior. That report, released Wednesday was issued to look into what’s referred to as: “the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies.” Some of those schools listed were in North Dakota.
“This is part of our history. We have to acknowledge the past and we have to learn from it,” North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Nathan Davis said.
The report released by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, states from 1819 to 1969, the Federal Indian Boarding School System was made up of 408 federal schools. 12 were identified in North Dakota, with some having more than one location. “There is a need for acknowledgment and a need to learn from things that happened historically,” Davis said.
According to the report, historically, the U.S. made laws to help establish and support Indian boarding schools. But students at the schools were forced to relocate and were subject, according to the report, to systematic militarized and identity-alteration methodologies. Some of those methodologies included changing Indian names to English names, having their hair cut, discouraging them to use their native languages, discouraging them from practicing their religious beliefs, and forcing them to perform military drills.
Davis said the firsthand stories told by his ancestors about what the report finds impacts tribal nations then and now. “As a Native American and as a father, I do commend Secretary Haaland for the work she’s undertaken and the steps that have been made and recognizing the past and addressing the past and ensuring that she continues to work what she deems necessary in regards to not only recognition but reconciliation as well,” Davis said.
North Dakota District 27 Representative Ruth Buffalo (D) said something she and others would like to see passed is a bill to create the Truth and Healing Commission, which locally, would report to the governor about proposed methods to address what the bill describes as historical trauma tribal members have experienced.
“It’s so important that we have mechanisms in place also to support boarding school survivors because it’s heavy, it’s really heavy,” Buffalo said.
One school still opened in North Dakota is called the Circle Of Nations School, formally the Wahpeton Indian School. According to its website, it’s an off-reservation boarding school for 4th through 8th-grade students, from 33 tribes located in 18 states. The second volume in the investigative report will be released later.