May 17, 2022 - News

Report reveals Pennsylvania's Native American boarding school legacy

Indian boarding schools in Pennsylvania
Data: BIA; Map: Jared Whalen/AxiosData: BIA; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

A federal study released last week on Native American boarding schools nationwide found students were severely mistreated and in some instances died, including in Pennsylvania.

Driving the news: The Interior Department report says children at 408 federal Indian boarding schools endured sexual and physical abuse, manual labor, and malnourishment between 1819 and 1969, as part of the U.S. campaign to compel their assimilation, Axios' Shawna Chen writes.

  • Interior Secretary Deb Haaland authorized the study last year following the discovery of Indigenous children's remains at a former Canadian residential school site.

Zoom in: The first federally run boarding school for Native American students opened in Pennsylvania in 1879 and operated until 1918.

Of note: Two other schools opened in Pennsylvania in the late 19th century: Martinsburg Indian School in Martinsburg and the Lincoln Institution for Girls in Philadelphia.

Between the lines: These schools forced Native American children to assimilate by forbidding them from using their native languages and names.

  • They also restricted children from participating in their religious and cultural practices.

What they're saying: "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.

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