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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 Loretta O., who asked us: 

What is the number of children buried at Chemawa Indian Boarding School?

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

According to Native News Online's interview with the expert who has been surveying the grounds of Chemawa Indian Boarding School in central Oregon for eight years, the school has at least 222 unmarked graves belonging to Native children.

In January, Native News Online interviewed Marsha Small (Northern Cheyenne), a doctoral candidate at Montana State University who has been working with ground-penetrating radar for almost a decade. She is researching its use to locate and document deaths at two Indian boarding-school cemeteries: Chemawa Indian School, north of Salem, Ore., and another on-reservation boarding school in South Dakota.

Since 2014, Small has been surveying the cemetery at Chemawa, the longest-running Indian boarding school in the country. Opened in 1880, it is still operating today, now under the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Education. Through her work, Small located 222 unmarked graves, more than the 208 that records said existed there.

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 us shine a light on the dark era of Indian Boarding Schools and their continued impact on Native families and communities today? Become a recurring donor for $5 or $10 a month, or make a one-time donation.  

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You’re reading the first draft of history. 

November is  Native American Heritage Month in the United States. We feel like every month — and every day — is a reason for celebrating Native Americans and our heritage. That’s what we try to do here at Native News Online, with stories each day that celebrate, inform and uplift American Indian and Alaska Native people. Over the past year or so, we have been especially busy with three important reporting projects that are having an impact across Indian Country:

  • Indian Boarding Schools. We’ve reported and published more than 150 stories and special live stream video events to help shine a light on the dark era of boarding schools — and help create momentum for change.
  • Native Health Desk. Launched in January, this reporting initiative was created to heighten awareness of Native American health inequities and spotlight pockets of progress in Indian Country. So far we’ve reported and published nearly 120 stories and launched a monthly health newsletter that reaches more than 23,000 readers.  
  • Native Bidaske. In March, we launched this live stream interview program to highlight the work of Native Americans who are making news and leading change in Indian Country.  We have hosted guests from the federal government and Native rights advocates as well as Indigenous actors, comedians, journalists and models.   

We hope you will join us in celebrating Native American heritage and history this November and invite you to consider the old adage that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” If you appreciate the voice Native News Online gives to Native American people, we hope you will support our work with a donation so we can build our newsroom and continue to amplify Native voices and Native perspectives.

Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.  Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10.  Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news. 

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

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 staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the publication's lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.