Indian Boarding Schools: 1

Finally, some national attention is being given to the terrible history of Indian Boarding Schools in this country. Many object to characterizing these institutions of forced assimilation as “schools”.

There is a long and complicated history related to the policies and implementation of forced assimilation in the United States and Canada.

Forced assimilation is an involuntary process of cultural assimilation of religious or ethnic minority groups during which they are forced to adopt languageidentitynormsmorescustomstraditionsvaluesmentalityperceptionsway of life, and often religion and ideology of established and generally larger community belonging to dominant culture by government.


Today I want to introduce

  • Quaker involvement in these institutions
  • Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report

As my friend Bobby Trice describes here, White Quakers were involved in some of these schools.

Quakers Grapple with Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools

The recent discovery of 215 graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, in Canada’s Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nations territory, has re-centered a widespread reckoning with past government cultural assimilation policies. Some Quakers are responding by reflecting, learning about Friends’ complicity in running Indian Boarding Schools, and starting to tell the truth about this history.

Following FCNL’s tradition of witnessing in solidarity with Native Americans, we are amplifying the efforts of Native advocates to formalize this truth-telling process in current legislation. It’s vital to ground these efforts in an honest history of the Religious Society of Friends’ oppression of Indigenous people in North America.

Such oppression, rooted in white supremacy, has led to systemic discrimination and inequity that permeates our society today.

Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States government systematically enacted cultural assimilation laws targeting Native Americans. The implementation of these policies led to Christian churches working with the government to found hundreds of boarding schools for Indigenous children.

Quakers ran more than 30 Indian boarding schools. The students faced cruel practices of child labor, forced assimilation, and physical punishments. In an 1869 letter, Friend Edward Shaw from Richmond, Indiana, wrote that Quakers participated “to protect, to Civilize, and to Christianize our Red Brethren.”

“For far too long, the truth of cultural genocide led by European-Americans at Indian boarding schools has remained hidden in secrecy and ignored,” said FCNL General Secretary Diana Randall. “Christian churches, including Quakers, carry this burden of transgression against Indigenous people.”

Quakers Grapple with Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools by Bobby Trice, Friends Committee on National Legislation, October 25, 2021

Another reason for national attention is the release of Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report that I wrote about yesterday.

Following is a link to that report, and part of the introduction.

“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old — are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Haaland said in a statement. “We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous Peoples can continue to grow and heal.”

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

I plan to continue to write about this. See the section about Forced Assimilation on this blog.

And here is a link to other blog posts I’ve written on another blog: Forced assimilation

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