Resolution honors memory of Native boarding school victims

A House resolution supporting a national day of remembrance for Native American children who died while attending federal Indian boarding schools, and recognizing those who survived has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Canadians on Sept. 30 marked Orange Shirt Day, a Canadian holiday for remembrance of victims of Canadian boarding schools. Orange Shirt Day has become increasingly recognized in the United States and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has also declared Sept. 30 as a National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools.

“The history of federal boarding school programs for Native Americans is dark, and has caused significant pain for our First Peoples, including Alaska Natives,” Young said.

“These institutions were expressly designed to force Native assimilation, thereby crushing rich histories and unique cultures. We have felt this in Alaska. Just 13 years ago, the last speaker of the Eyak language passed away, resulting in a tragic loss for future generations. My late wife, children, and grandchildren are Alaska Native, which makes understanding the past and protecting Indigenous people in the future deeply important to me.

The fact that these boarding schools operated in Alaska within my lifetime shows just how fresh of a wound this is for Native communities,” Young said. “Sadly, many Americans are unfamiliar with this history and are rightfully alarmed to learn of these horrific policies. I am proud to help introduce a resolution to create a national day of remembrance for those who were victimized by these boarding schools and their policies of forced assimilation. It is my great hope that through this resolution, we can raise awareness about these schools and secure justice for their countless victims and their descendants. As ranking member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, I will continue doing all that I can to stand up for Native communities in Alaska and across the country.”