Statement by Governor Jay Inslee in Response to Federal Report Regarding Native Residential Schools

Narrative

The U.S. Department of the Interior today released a nationwide investigative report that identified more than 400 federally operated schools for Native American children, including 15 in Washington state. The report is the first step in the Federal Residential Schools Initiative launched by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last June following staggering revelations of hundreds of unmarked graves at residential schools across Canada.

These boarding schools were designed to forcibly remove children from their families and place them with educators who suppressed the use of the native language and any learning of native cultures and beliefs. There have been numerous reports of students being severely abused when these schools were operating. Thousands of children never returned home.

These schools began opening in the late 1880s and continued to operate until the 1960s, when new federal laws gave American Indians more rights and control over their children’s education. The report concludes that further investigation is needed to better understand what happened at these schools and their lasting impacts on American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.

“The federal and state governments of the United States have inflicted tremendous loss and suffering on Indigenous and indigenous peoples over generations, including the horrific and systematic erasure of their culture and their children,” Inslee said in a statement. response to the report. “It is difficult to face such harsh 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 damage caused by these schools, and strengthen the efforts of those who struggle to ensure the persistence and flourishing of the many languages, cultures and tribal knowledge.

Additional report information

Institutions identified in the report that operated in Washington include:

  • Chehalis Boarding and Day School in Oakville
  • Colville Mission School in Kettle Falls
  • Cushman Indian School in Tacoma
  • Fort Simcoe Indian Residential School in White Swan
  • Fort Spokane Boarding School in Davenport
  • Neah Bay Boarding and Day School in Neah Bay
  • Puyallup Indian School on Squaxin Island
  • Quinaielt boarding school and day school in Taholah
  • S’Kokomish Boarding and Day School in Olympia
  • Federal St. George Indian Residential School
  • Federal St. Joseph Boarding School
  • Paschal Sherman Indian School in Omak
  • Tonasket Boarding School in Tonasket
  • Tulalip Indian Industrial School in Tulalip Bay
  • Tulalip Mission School at Priest’s Point

More information is needed to determine if Washington State has cooperated with any of these schools. It is not known if any unmarked graves are on the school sites. The report lists 53 cemeteries associated with schools across the country, but to prevent exploitation of the graves, the locations were not disclosed.

Secretary Haaland is the first Native American to serve as Cabinet Secretary. You can read his op-ed about his family’s experience with federal boarding schools.

Native American children photographed in a field in front of the Chehalis Boarding and Day School in Oakville in 1885. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Archives.

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