Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Department of Interior, released the following statement today after the Department of Interior released Volume 1 of a report being compiled as part of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. This comprehensive investigation details the troubled legacy of the federal government’s assimilation policies and federal Indian boarding schools, and the generations of trauma these schools created for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians:
“The historic injustices committed against Native Americans in Oregon and across the U.S. have gone overlooked and undiscussed for far too long. The Interior Department’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative is a critical effort to shed light on the dark period in our country’s history that attempted to force Indigenous children to assimilate by separating them from their families, homes, and cultures. Many children died without their families ever knowing what happened. The trauma these policies of emotional and physical abuse have caused, and continue to cause for Tribal communities to this day, cannot be overstated.
“Oregon played a role in this painful history, with 10 different federal Indian boarding schools since statehood. By compiling the first official count of these schools and initial list of burial grounds, the federal government is finally taking a significant step to address the devastating consequences of its actions and help create a path forward for Indigenous people to recover from the pain and betrayal.
“Erasing the ugly parts of our history only extends those injustices. It is imperative that we acknowledge the wrongs we have committed as a nation not to cast shame on anyone, but to bring healing to the victims and to learn from them so we do not repeat the past. As Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in the Senate and as an American, I look forward to continuing to support this important work, grow my understanding of this history, take steps to right these historic wrongs, and do all we can to help Native communities heal and thrive.”