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Interior Secretary Haaland tells Senate committee it's time to heal from the nation's dark past

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee today that the country must start healing from its 150-year long dark legacy of forcibly assimilating children.

Haaland wept as she laid out what those plans should look like.

“Federal policies should fully support and revitalize Native healthcare, education, languages and cultural practices that prior federal Indian policies sought to destroy,” she told the committee.

Her testimony followed an investigation by the Department of the Interior into the more than 400 Indian boarding schools that ran from the 1800s all the way to 1969. Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian children as young as four were forbidden to learn their own languages; their hair was cut off; and they were given White names.

Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz said forced assimilation was the point of the school’s existence.

“And indoctrinating them as the founder of Carlisle school ominously said, ‘kill the Indian and save the man,’” he said.

Haaland, whose own grandparents were sent to the schools, said a second volume of the investigation will contain more specific information about each tribe and each boarding school.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.