Hollande, who is of Native American descent, announced the research in a speech to the National Congress of American Indians. He says it’s time for Americans to learn what really happened in boarding schools, where children from Native American families were sent to grow up to be “real Americans.”
“We need to know the truth about the loss of life and the lasting consequences of these schools,” Hollande said. Following the recent discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of 215 children in Canada at a Catholic boarding school, tribal children were educated as ‘model citizens’.
In the United States, too, under the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, hundreds of thousands of children were taken from tribal families and imprisoned in boarding schools where the Christian faith was forced upon them. Usually they were forbidden to speak their own language. According to some scientists, more than 40,000 children have died in 150 years of the program as a result of the brutal treatment they received in boarding schools.
At the turn of the century, Hollande said, 80 percent of children from tribal families attended boarding schools run by the federal government or religious organizations. The split of those families had an impact on tribal communities, and it is still felt today.
He cited the example of his own grandmother, who, along with other Native American children, was loaded on a train and taken to a boarding school, where he felt lonely for many years.
Like Canada, he proposed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to find out what happened in boarding schools, some of which have been educating tribal children since the 1980s.