Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Tuesday that her department will undertake an investigation of abuse perpetrated at the boarding schools where Indigenous children were separated from their families in the 19th and 20th centuries. Haaland said the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative will produce authoritative reports and documentation on the cruelty of a previously obfuscated history. “At no time in history have the records or documentation of this policy been compiled or analyzed to determine the full scope of its reaches and effects. We must uncover the truth about the loss of human life, and the lasting consequences of the schools,” she said. “I know that this process will be long and difficult. I know that this process will be painful. It won't undo the heartbreak and loss we feel. But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we’re all proud to embrace.” Haaland, who is Native American, said her own ancestors had endured the cruelty of the schools. The initiative comes on the heels of the excavation of mass graves at a reform school in Florida that closed in 2011 and the discovery of the remains of more than 200 Native children on the campus of a similar boarding school in Canada.
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