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Interior Dept. releases report of conditions at Native American boarding schools

Courtesy Friends Committee on National Legislation

The US Interior Department has released a report that looks at loss of life and abuse that took place at Native American boarding schools supported by the federal government.

This report involves more than 400 schools in 37 states. Fourteen of those schools listed in the report were in North Dakota.

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock is the Congressional advocate for the Native American Advocacy Program, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation. She said the report has confirmed the truth that Tribes have always known.

"Native children were ripped away from their parents," Skenandore-Wheelock said in an interview. "Children were taken long distances away from their tribal communities, often out of state."

Skenandore-Wheelock said when the children arrived, they were renamed with English names, their braids were cut, they were stripped and scrubbed with lye before being dressed in Western clothing. She also said the children were also severely punished for speaking their Native language.

"Food was withheld," Skenandore-Wheelock said. "They were locked out of the school in cold temperatures. Some were chained and assaulted, and put in solitary confinement."

Skenandore-Wheelock said the children were as young as 4 years old.

"They were essentially treated as prisoners of war," she said.

Skenandore-Wheelock said the Interior investigation continues. And she said Congress needs to establish a formal commission to focus on the boarding schools.