Ramona Klein’s voice quivered as she sat before a U.S. House subcommittee in Washington, D.C., recounting horrific childhood memories of Fort Totten Indian boarding school in North Dakota, where she was a student.
There, she said, she was starved, beaten, humiliated, and sexually assaulted. Oftentimes, she found herself staring out the frosty window of her dormitory, longing for home and to see her mother and father.
Klein was 7 years old when she and five other siblings were ripped from her parents and sent to the school under a federal program to assimilate Indigenous peoples into white society — a program that withstood challenge for more than 150 years.
“I remember seeing my mom as she stood and watched six of her eight children being placed on a big green bus and taken to Fort Totten,” Klein, now 74, testified Thursday, May 12. “That image is forever imprinted in my mind and in my heart.”
Klein, an educator and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, was one of several American Indians who spoke at Thursday’s hearing before the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, in support of Rep. Sharice Davids’ H.R. 5444, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act.
The hearing came a day after the Department of Interior released a first-of-its-kind investigative report revealing that more than 500 American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children died at 19 Indian boarding schools from the early 19th century through the late 1960s.
As the federal investigation continues, the Interior Department expects the death toll to increase by the thousands, possibly the tens of thousands, according to the report.
The study has identified 408 boarding schools that operated in 37 states, or then territories, as well as 53 burial sites across the federal boarding school system, a number that also is expected to increase over the course of the investigation.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaking at an event on Dec. 3, 2021 (AP File Photo/Michael Woods)
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico and the first American Indian to head the federal agency, launched the investigation in June 2021 amid the grim discoveries of skeletal remains of hundreds of Indigenous children at former …read more
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News
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