**UPDATE** Following the release of this report, Rep. Buffalo remarked to KX News that she would like to see both a bill passed to create the Truth and Healing Commission in North Dakota North, as well as S.2907: Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act at the federal level. North Dakota Bill 1488 did not pass the 67th Legislative Assembly.
BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — The first volume of an investigative report into the Federal Indian Residential Schools Initiative has been released by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This report, released Wednesday, was issued to examine what is being called: “the troubled legacy of federal residential school policies.” Some of these schools listed were in North Dakota.
“It’s part of our history. We need to acknowledge the past and we need to learn from it,” said Nathan Davis, executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission.
The report released by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, states that from 1819 to 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools. 12 have been identified in North Dakota, with some having more than one location. “There’s a need for recognition and a need to learn from things that happened historically,” Davis said.
According to the report, historically, the United States has passed laws to help establish and support Indian boarding schools. But students in the schools were forced to relocate and were subjected, according to the report, to systematic methodologies of militarization and identity alteration. Some of these methodologies included changing Indian names to English names, having their hair cut, discouraging them from using their native language, discouraging them from practicing their religious beliefs, and forcing them to perform military exercises.
Davis said the first-hand stories told by his ancestors about the report’s findings impact tribal nations past and present. “As a Native American and as a father, I commend Secretary Haaland for the work she has undertaken and the steps that have been taken and acknowledging the past and dealing with the past and ensuring that she continues to work on what she deems necessary for not just recognition, but also reconciliation,” Davis said.
North Dakota District 27 Representative Ruth Buffalo (D) said something she and others would like to see passed is a bill to create the Truth and Healing Commission, which locally would do report to the governor on proposed methods of dealing with what the bill describes as historic. the traumas that the members of the tribe have suffered.
“It’s so important that we also have mechanisms in place to support residential school survivors because it’s heavy, it’s really heavy,” Buffalo said.
A school still open in North Dakota is called the Circle Of Nations School, formerly the Wahpeton Indian School. According to its website, it is an off-reservation boarding school for students in grades 4-8, from 33 tribes located in 18 states. The second volume of the investigation report will be published later.