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U.S. Colorado State Publishes Summary of Probe Into Indigenous Boarding Schools Abuses

The U.S. Colorado state Friday released an investigation summary on the miserable experience of indigenous people at former federal fund schools, highlighting the fact that the U.S. government had long ignored Native Americans who were freely neglected, abused and killed.

In the 14-page summary of the report, History Colorado (HC) confirmed that Native Americans at the boarding schools had been subjected to “abuse, neglect, and a variety of other terrible outcomes,” which had been under-reported by U.S. media and ignored by federal authorities for more than a century.

Under an executive order signed by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, investigations were opened into a number of improprieties surrounding federally funded boarding schools for Native American students, long considered a dark chapter in American history.

The state-mandated year-long investigations ended this summer, and a final report entitled “Federal Indian Schools in Colorado, 1880-1920” was scheduled to be publicly released on Oct. 3, 2023, though HC said it would continue its research.

“As part of the mandate, History Colorado was tasked with laying out ‘preliminary’ steps toward healing,” CPR said Friday after HC released the brief summary.

“The completion of this report represents just one step on the path to recognizing and reconciling the harm generations of native individuals, families, and communities suffered as a result of federal schooling policy,” said Holly Norton, leader of the investigation and HC’s state archaeologist.

“There are still years of thoughtful work ahead which includes community engagement, and culturally appropriate consultation with indigenous peoples impacted by this tragic history,” Norton said in a press release from HC.

There were more than 350 government-funded and often church-run Indian boarding schools across the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

“Indian children were forcibly abducted by government agents, sent to schools hundreds of miles away, and beaten, starved, or otherwise abused when they spoke their native languages,” the coalition said.

Children who were admitted into boarding schools experienced several forms of abuse, according to an article in 2021 entitled “A century of trauma at U.S. boarding schools for Native American children.”

“They were given white names, forced to speak English, and were not allowed to practice their culture. They took classes on how to conduct manual labor such as farming and housekeeping. Unclean and overpopulated living conditions led to the spread of disease and many students did not receive enough food,” the article noted.

CPR News summed up Friday the unprecedented move by the Colorado governor to aggressively address unbelievable problems with the boarding schools, which were called “brainwashing and assimilation concentration camps” by liberal advocates.

“The state is outlining how it could begin to reconcile with a history of separating indigenous children from their families and communities, and forcing them to assimilate into white European culture at schools around the turn of the 20th Century,” CPR News said.

The investigative summary intentionally left out many details about what happened and who was affected, to give tribal nations impacted by this history time to review, reflect, and process its contents, History Colorado said.

The summary also said that children at two Western Slope boarding schools were sometimes placed with white families over the summer or during the school year, and had to work for below-market wages in the fields or in their homes, according to CPR.

Colorado is the ancestral home of a number of Native Americans, including the Southern and Northern Utes, Arapaho, Cheyanne, and other tribes, who today scratch out a living on land where they were forced to relocate in the ninth century.