Oklahoma home to more Indian boarding schools than any other state

According to a federal report, Oklahoma was home to more Indian boarding schools than any other state.

The report, released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of the Interior, was based off a study that identified 408 Indian boarding schools across 37 states since the early 19th century.

The report said 76 of those boarding schools were located in Oklahoma, the most of any other state listed.

The boarding schools impacted Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages and the Native Hawaiian community. The report found that between 1819 to 1969, the Federal Indian boarding school system was in use to assimilate Indigenous children into white society, although the report brings to light all the negative effects this has had.

“The Federal Indian boarding school system discouraged or prevented the use of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages or cultural or religious practices through punishment, including corporal punishment,” the report said.

The report said that targeting Indian children for assimilation contributed to the loss of physical and mental health, territories and wealth, Tribal and family relations, and use of Tribal languages.

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The Interior Department also found 53 marked and unmarked burial sites at or near the boarding schools, and over 500 deaths at 19 schools, though the department said that number could climb to the thousands.

A second volume of the report will cover the burial sites and the federal government’s financial investment in the schools and the impacts of the boarding schools on Indigenous communities, the Interior Department said.

“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,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, announced the initiative last June to investigate the legacy of boarding schools and the government’s role in them.

Haaland announced Wednesday a year-long tour for Interior Department officials that will allow former Indian boarding school students to share their stories as part of a permanent oral history collection.

On Thursday, a U.S. House subcommittee will hear testimony on a bill to create a truth and healing commission. modeled after one in Canada.