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Native American boarding school survivors tell of abuses

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Deb Haaland, the secretary of the U.S. Interior, visited with senior Native American boarding school survivors on Saturday. This was her first stop on a year-long journey to gather firsthand stories of the pervasive abuses committed at these institutions.

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Haaland collected oral histories of the horrors they endured by meeting with survivors at the Riverside Indian School, the country's first Native American boarding school run by the federal government.

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The schools served as focal points for the forced assimilation that was intended to eradicate Native American culture. This practise started in the early 1800s and persisted through the 1970s.

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In front of an audience of around 300 people, Haaland claimed that every indigenous person she knew had been impacted by government policy on Indian boarding schools and that all Native Americans "carry the trauma in our hearts."

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Elderly boarding school survivors took turns sharing their stories of torture they experienced decades ago.

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They almost all said that they had been cut off from their families by the time they were 4 or 5 years old and had not returned until they had finished high school.

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The conditions at defunct Indian boarding schools came to the attention of the world last year when tribal leaders in Canada revealed the location of 215 children's unmarked graves.

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United States and Canada used a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to conduct thorough investigations into their educational systems.

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The number of students attending such schools, the number of students who perished or went missing from them, or even the sheer number of schools, has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government.

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Lawrence SpottedBird, the Kiowa tribe's recently elected chairman, claimed that as a veteran, he felt just as American as anyone.

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Despite being one of the biggest violators of human rights when it comes to Native Americans, America takes pride in being a global champion of democracy and human rights.

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