The US Catholic bishops pledge to assist the country’s review of past Indigenous boarding schools. The US Department of the Interior recently announced was launching an inquiry into the schools.
Will the Episcopal Church join the pledge to assist in the investigation? It ran at least 18 Native American boarding schools under a U.S. government program to assimilate Indigenous children.
U.S. Catholic bishops are “deeply saddened” by the recent confirmation of hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of two former residential schools for Indigenous children in Canada, according to a written statement by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson Chieko Noguchi.
Bishops are also “following closely” the U.S. Department of the Interior’s inquiry into what were known as Indian boarding schools in the United States and have pledged to “look for ways to be of assistance,” according to the statement shared with Religion News Service.
The U.S. also operated more than 350 boarding schools, which were often run by churches, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is Laguna Pueblo and the first Native American to head the department that oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, last week announced a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to review the legacy of federal boarding school policies.
Where is the Episcopal Church, from The Living Church (2018):
Last year , the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) apologized “to those who were and are part of ‘stolen generations’ during the Indian-assimilation movement, namely former students of Indian boarding schools, their families, and their communities.”
To date, the Episcopal Church has not apologized for operating Native American boarding schools, despite calls from within the church to do so. Last year at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Hauff called on all churches and governments involved in “genocide and assimilation of Indigenous people,” including boarding schools, to apologize and invest to build up a sense of “authentic Native identity” in children and youth.
The church has, however, laid related groundwork by repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, which was used to invalidate indigenous people’s claims to land.
In 2009, 2012, and 2015, General Convention directed all dioceses to “examine the impact” of the Doctrine of Discovery on indigenous people. In 2012, a General Convention resolution called for equipping dioceses with tools to “document and explain the church’s historical role, negative and positive,” in living by the Discovery Doctrine. Despite these commitments, stories of church-run boarding schools in the United States remain hidden from the broader public.