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This month, we’re compiling questions that our readers are asking us about Indian Boarding Schools and offering answers as reported by our team. 

Today’s reader question about Indian Boarding Schools comes from Linda B., who asked us: 

Are the current-day facilities — such as St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota — better or in the same category of the federally funded ones mentioned in the article?

Our reporter Jenna Kunze, who has written nearly half of our 100-plus stories about Indian Boarding Schools, provides this answer: 

Currently, the federal Bureau of Indian Education funds or operates 183 schools across the United States—including four off-reservation boarding schools—though the schools do not function as they once did. 

“The most important thing to understand right now is that it is not the express purpose of the United States federal government to operate the schools to forcibly assimilate kids,” Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said last month, adding that most of the schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs are operated directly by tribes. “So the difference is at the core of the school's mission, which is to empower Indian kids in their communities… and not to forcibly assimilate kids and not to take them from their families without their consent.”

St. Joseph’s Indian School, formerly known as Chamberlain Indian School, was an off-reservation boarding school funded by the federal government from 1898 to 1909. It was later sold to the Catholic Church, who still run the facility as a boarding school for Native American youth today. The school made headlines in 2016 when officials sent out disparaging fundraising letters meant to appear as though they were authored by children.

If you have a question about Indian Boarding Schools, please submit them to [email protected] or use the online form that can be found at the bottom of stories such as this one. Want to help support our continued reporting on this important topic?  Become a recurring donor for $5 or $10 a month, or make a one-time donation.  

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About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Writer
Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 U.S. journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Alaskan Arctic region. Prior to that, she served as lead reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.