Report: Burial sites found at 53 Native American boarding schools

A new federal study shows more than 500 students died at Native American boarding schools that sought to assimilate Indigenous children into white society. 

The Interior Department released the report Wednesday. It is the first volume of the investigative report that seeks to address the troubling legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies. 

The investigation found that from 1819 to 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system was comprised of more than 400 schools across 37 states. Six of those schools were in Idaho and 15 were in Washington. 

Some of the local schools included the Colville Mission School in Kettle Falls, First Spokane Boarding School in Davenport, Paschal Sherman Indian School in Omak and the Tonasket Boarding School in Tonasket. 

The school system operated at a time that coincided with the removal of many tribes from their ancestral lands. 

In many of these schools, children were forced from their families, prohibited from speaking their languages and often abused. Many never returned home. 

The investigation identified marked or unmarked burial sites at approximately 53 different schools across the system. The Interior Department expects the number of identified burial sites to increase. 

Washington Governor Jay Inslee offered the following statement upon the release of the report: 

“The federal and state governments of the United States have dealt tremendous loss and suffering to the Native and Indigenous people throughout generations, including the horrific and systematic erasure of their culture and their children. It is difficult to confront such hard truths about our past, but it is necessary for healing and progress. Washington state stands ready to do what we can to acknowledge the trauma and harm these schools caused, and uplift the efforts of those who fight to ensure the many Tribal languages, cultures and knowledge persist and flourish.”

READ: US finds 500 Native American boarding school deaths so far

The Associated Press contributed to this report.