The Tragic History of Residential Schools

Zalissa Sanfo

Imagine being taken away from your family to go live with people who treated you very poorly and took away your native culture.They would trick them into coming with promising things to the native children and their parents. That was what many Native American kids in the late 1800s and early 1900s had to deal with. Some of the kids went voluntarily to boarding schools  because they were promised adventure, comfort, and education. Those promises were broken before they even got back to the schools. 

Those kids were forced to cut their hair (which is a very ceremonial aspect in native culture). While they would cut the kids hair they would often tie them down if they resisted. In these schools, the children’s native language and culture was not acceptable and they would be punished for using them. Their punishments were outrageous; they were starved, beaten, and even sexually assaulted. Some children even got to the point where they would either run away or kill themselves. 

The United States government held over 350 treaties with Native American tribes but most of them were never fulfilled. The government invested their time and money into these schools that terrorized young children. Hundreds of thousands of these childrens were victims in these schools all around the United States.  These boarding school children were living terrible lives in this era. Which  gave them no hope in the future. 

Later on down the road in 1928, the government commissioned the Meriam Report, which was devastating update on the Native American affairs. This report caused immediate change among the schools. 

Over the years, children at these schools reported widespread neglect and physical and sexual abuse. In 1975, Congress passed the Indian Self-determination and Education Assistance Act. By that time it was nearly the end for the boarding schools. 

In the late 20th century the government started to acknowledge the schools’ grisly legacy. In 2009, Congress passed a joint resolution apology to the Native Americans that consisted of a reference to forcible removal of native children from their families to faraway boarding schools where their native practices and languages degraded and forbidden. 

For the children who were sent off their reservations to get treated so badly for so long must have been so hard for them to try and grow up and be good parents for how badly they were treated as kids. Those children were strong and aren’t forgotten. We will remember you.