Truth and healing coalition

Yesterday at my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek Friends near Earlham, Iowa, we continued discussions related to Quakers and our relations with Native peoples generally, and those we know personally. There was deep sharing related to what we were learning about the institutions of forced assimilation. Like me, others indicated they had not understood the depths of the tragedies of forced assimilation. We have little specific information about the role of some of our ancestors. While it is not appropriate to share what was said without the permission of those present during the meeting’s discussion, I think it is important to state that we are engaged in the process of learning more, i.e. truth telling, and what we might do. There was discussion about healing.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) has many excellent resources. One of their excellent publications is Healing Voices Volume 1: A Primer on American Indian and Alaska Native Boarding Schools in the U.S.

NABS was formed in 2012, in part to advocate for the establishment of a federal commission on U.S. Indian Boarding Schools, similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Canada’s Residential Schools. For years, NABS has been part of a grassroots movement of Native academics, researchers, tribal leaders, and boarding school survivors and descendants who are seeking truth, justice, and healing. The work to introduce a congressional commission has been underway for almost a decade.

The announcement by U.S. Interior Secretary Debra Haaland of the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative in June this year is an important first step in the federal government taking accountability for revealing the truth, but we believe a Congressional Commission is the most comprehensive approach to developing a complete picture of the ongoing impact Indian boarding schools have had on generations of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people. This is critical to providing a path toward healing for individuals, families and Tribal communities that have endured the devastating consequences of Indian boarding school policies.


Here is a link a fact sheet related to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

Why a Truth and Healing Commission

We have a right to know the truth of what happened in Indian boarding schools in the United States.

Over the course of a century, hundreds of thousands of our children were taken or coerced away from our families and Tribes and forced to attend government-sanctioned Indian boarding schools. These schools were tools of assimilation and cultural genocide, resulting in the loss of language and culture and the permanent separation of children from their families. To date, there has never been an accounting of:

  • the number of children forced to attend these schools;
  • the number of children who were abused, died, or went missing while at these schools; and
  • the long-term impacts on the children and the families of children forced to attend Indian boarding schools.
Key Provisions of the Bill
  • Examines the location of children
  • Documents ongoing impacts from boarding schools
  • Locates church and government records
  • Holds culturally-appropriate public hearings to collect testimony from survivors and descendants.
  • Institutional knowledge gathering from subject matter experts
  • Shares findings publicly
  • Provides a final report with a list of recommendations for justice and healing


This is a link to articles on this website related to the institutions of forced assimilation.

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