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The U.S. has been following Canada's lead in searching for the bodies of Indigenous children at historic residential and boarding schools, and the newly-released results have turned out to be similarly horrifying.
Investigators say they found about 500 graves belonging to Indigenous children at boarding schools across the country, with potentially thousands more still to be found, reported The Associated Press.
The graves were found at schools where Indigenous children were pressed to assimilate into white society, under policies similar to the ones that Canada used at residential schools for many decades.
Just like in Canada, the findings show that some children "never returned" from those schools.
“Each of those children is a missing family member, a person who was not able to live out their purpose on this Earth because they lost their lives as part of this terrible system,” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said, per the AP.
The U.S. government released a detailed report about its findings on Wednesday, in which it named 53 different schools where marked and unmarked burial sites were found.
According to the report, between 1819 and 1969, the U.S. operated 408 boarding schools across 37 states or then-territories, of which 21 were in Alaska and seven were in Hawaii.
“This report confirms that the United States directly targeted American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children in the pursuit of a policy of cultural assimilation that coincided with Indian territorial dispossession,” said the report.
The number of confirmed graves is expected to grow as the search continues.
“This investigative report is a significant step by the federal government to comprehensively address the facts and consequences of its federal Indian boarding school policies — implemented for more than a century and a half — resulting in the twin goals of cultural assimilation and territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples through the forced removal and relocation of their children,” the U.S. Department of the Interior said in a statement.
According to the findings in the report, the children were renamed and given English names; their hair was cut; they were prevented from speaking in their native languages or practicing their religion, and they were forced to perform military drills.
The report found that the school curriculum included many manual labour tasks such as brick-making, cooking, raising livestock, developing irrigation systems, and working on the railroad system.
The report added that the children weren’t provided with an education that would've set them up to flourish in the American economy, so they were left with limited employment options.
In addition to all of this, the children were also subjected to cruel treatment like flogging, starvation, whipping, slapping and cuffing, according to the report.
A U.S. House subcommittee was scheduled to consider a Canada-style truth and healing commission on Thursday, the AP reports.