Interior Secretary urges Senate to investigate deaths of 500 indigenous kids in US schools
Congresswoman Deb Haaland (AFP)

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history, outlined the next steps she hopes that the federal government will take to investigate the over 500 Native American children who died over a 50-year-period in government-run schools that sought to eliminate Indigenous children's culture while integrating them into white U.S. society.

Haaland's department conducted a study into the schools and their victims. As The Hill explains, "At these institutions, Indigenous children had their hair cut and were forbidden from speaking their native languages."

The schools ripped American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children from their families. Sex, physical, and psychological abuse also occurred at the schools.

At the hearing, Haaland encouraged the Senate to pass S.B. 2907, which would establish a Truth and Healing Commission to learn more about the schools. The commission would also make recommendations for identifying which tribal areas had the most children taken from them, for protecting unmarked graves of the children who died in the schools, and for ensuring that such abuses won't occur again in the future.

Haaland emphasized that the bill seeks to serve the families most harmed by the schools. She also said that she wasn't sure about the funding that would be most needed to achieve the bill's goals.

However, she also said that the bill had already passed out of the Senate committee and seemed to have some Republican support as it prepares for a possible vote. She wants to have the bill passed without additional amendments added that could impair its passage.