Coalition Seeks Answers About Children Who Went Missing at U.S. Indian Boarding School Via United Nations Working Group

Marsha Small, Tsistsistas, Independent Researcher; Christine McCleave, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, Executive Officer, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition; Heather WhitemanRunsHim, Absaalooke, Senior Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund; Eleanor Hadden, Tlingit/Haida/Tsimshian, Independent Researcher.

Published May 15, 2019

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND —  On Tuesday a coalition of tribes, organizations, and independent researchers will go before the United Nations to testify about American Indian and Alaskan Native Children who went Missing under the United States’ Indian Boarding School Policy.The coalition filed a submission with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) on April 12, 2019 detailing a number of children who were taken into federal custody and whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

The filing outlines how the U.S. has never acknowledged, accepted responsibility for, nor shown accountability for the many children that did not return home from federal Indian boarding schools. Nor has the U.S. provided any evidence that they systematically notified families or tribes when the children passed away or went missing from schools despite attempts by the coalition to obtain this information through the FOIA process. The coalition who filed the UNWGEID submission includes the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, and independent researchers Preston McBride, Marsha Small, and Eleanor Hadden.

Between 1879 and the 1960s, tens of thousands of American Indian and Alaskan Native children were forced to attend boarding school against their parents’ and tribes’ wishes. The United States enforced attendance at federal and church-run boarding schools by withholding rations from families or by incarceration of family members. Once taken into federal custody, many children died at the schools or went missing.

The coalition urges the UNWGEID to call on the United States to provide a full accounting of American Indian and Alaskan Native children who were taken into government custody under the United States’ Indian Boarding School Policy.

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