Pueblo Governors Overwhelmingly Support DOI Secretary Haaland’s Probe into the Shameful Legacy of Federal Boarding School Policies

Pueblo Governors Overwhelmingly Support DOI Secretary Haaland’s Probe into the Shameful Legacy of Federal Boarding School Policies

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 30, 2021

Contact: Teran Villa, tvilla@indianpueblo.org

Albuquerque, NM – Interior Secretary Deb Haaland of Laguna and Jemez Pueblos recently announced her Indian Boarding School initiative, an investigation into the loss of human life and lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools in the United States. The Pueblo Governors have long advocated for accountability and justice given the forced assimilation and cultural suppression conducted by the federal government over the centuries. Historically, Pueblo children have been subjected to repressive federal education policies. The result has had a long lasting generational impact.

In a Memorandum, Secretary Haaland acknowledges the past actions of the federal government to carry out its forced assimilation policies and practices on tribal nations stating, “Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819 and running through the 1960s, the United States enacted laws and implemented policies – to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly relocating them from their families and communities to distant residential facilities where their American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian identities, languages, and beliefs were to be forcibly suppressed.”

All Pueblo Council of Governors Chairman Wilfred Herrera Jr., Former Governor of Laguna Pueblo, reflected on Secretary Haaland’s boarding school initiative, “It’s incredibly painful to recount what Pueblo parents and children experienced during this unbelievable period of forced cultural assimilation. During this time, the federal government’s assimilationist policies literally ripped our Pueblo children – some as young as four years old – from the arms of their mothers, stripping them of tender parental care and compassion; many unable to return home until the completion of their studies. While some of our children endured years of abuse for speaking our languages, practicing our cultures, and maintaining our traditions, the unbearable truth is that many of our young never returned to their Pueblo homelands, ever.”

The federal government relied on the Indian Civilization Act of 1819 for its actions and continued to engage in the practice of forced assimilation throughout the mid to late 20th century in New Mexico. According to historic accounts, Pueblo students attending the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Indian boarding schools perished and are interred in unmarked gravesites near the two school sites. The Pueblo Governors are unanimous in their support for actions taken by Secretary Haaland saying no parent should ever be subjected to such harsh, inhumane treatment at the hands of its government.

APCG Vice Chairman Phillip A. Perez, Governor of Nambe Pueblo said, “This action by Secretary Haaland is long overdue. Much of the American public is either unaware or has willingly overlooked the past actions by the federal government which brought incredible pain and sorrow upon the lives of Indigenous peoples. The APCG applauds Secretary Haaland’s leadership and reminds the general public and our Congressional delegates of the longstanding historic and generational trauma stemming from the Boarding School era.”

The location of student burial sites will require intense investigative effort, researching enrollment records and accompanying documents, painstakingly identifying remains, and relocating them for proper repatriation once they have been sufficiently identified. APCG Secretary David M. Toledo, Former Governor of Jemez Pueblo remarked, “We stand with Secretary Haaland’s decision to call for a report on the federal boarding school era by collecting relevant information and by conducting and carrying out sufficient Tribal consultation sessions. The sad truth is that the Pueblo Governors and tribal leaders know that many of our children never returned home, but no one knows the full extent of the undeniable social and emotional impact of the federal government’s boarding school policies on our Pueblo People. The APCG, as representatives of sovereign governments, stands ready to hold the federal government accountable.”

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The All Pueblo Council of Governors Mission is to advocate, foster, protect and encourage the social, cultural, and traditional well-being of our Pueblo Nations. Through our inherent and sovereign rights, we will promote language, health, economic and educational advancement of all Pueblo people. For more information, please visit: https://www.apcg.org/