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Federal Investigation Of Native American Boarding Schools Includes Wisconsin

Native American Boarding Schools
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Hundreds of people gather for a vigil in a field where human remains were discovered in unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School on the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan on June 26, 2021.

For a century in the U.S., Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced to attend Native American boarding schools. These were places that forced Eurocentric assimilation and stripped children of their language and culture. The schools operated from the 1800s up until the early 1990s.

Heather Bruegl is the director of cultural affairs for the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. She studies the history of these boarding schools and has seen the effect they've had on her community. "There were schools all over the state. And so Wisconsin was no exception to housing boarding schools," Bruegl explains.

Recently, the Biden administration announced they’ll be conducting a thorough investigation into these boarding schools to uncover the truth about the loss of human life.

"I think the potential impact is going to be detrimental. It's going to be devastating," Bruegl says. "I think we're only scratching the surface. I think, right now, people who were boarding school survivors or descendants of boarding school survivors, I think they only really understand the atrocity."

The United States has yet to apologize for the creation of boarding schools and the atrocities committed them, she says.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Native American to hold this position, is leading the investigation across the nation and in Wisconsin. Bruegel explains the importance of this: "I think her being an Indigenous woman — understanding these atrocities and really listening to the Indigenous community, I think because of that ... we're gonna see some change happen, and hopefully some acknowledgement."

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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