Support a Native Boarding School Truth and Healing Commission

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has a webpage which gives a synopsis of the bill and includes a template which makes it very easy for each of us to send an email to our two Senators and our Representative.

The Issue:

On September 30, 2021,a bill was introduced in Congress for the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S. Act. This bill, along with the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian School Truth Initiative announced in June, 2021, signals that some in the federal government are finally ready to acknowledge the devastating consequences of the assimilative boarding school era and begin to address the ongoing intergenerational impacts of the boarding school policies. The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) urges all members of Congress to support this legislation as a first step towards the truth and healing process.

The bipartisan legislation (S. 2907/H.R. 5444), introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-3), and Rep. Tom Cole (OK-4), would establish the first formal commission in United States history on Indian boarding schools. The commission would investigate and document policies, assimilation practices, attempted termination of cultures and languages of Indigenous peoples, and human rights violations that took place at hundreds of faith-run institutions.

The work to introduce a congressional commission has been underway for almost a decade. NABS submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2016 seeking information on the number of boarding schools that operated in the U.S., how many children attended these schools, how many children died or went missing, and additional facts related to the operation of the schools. However, these questions were never answered. Since then, NABS has been conducting this research independently.

Why NYM?

  • Northern Yearly Meeting has embraced the responsibility of building right relationship with Native communities and peoples.
  • We remind ourselves that the reason for NYM to take up the Doctrine of Discovery (DoD) and to consider renouncing a 500-year-old doctrine was that it was an entry point into understanding contemporary realities. When Native groups asked faith communities to do this work around the DoD, it was to help us understand and reject the philosophical foundation of much of our jurisprudence related to Native Americans, and to enable us to show up on the issues of our day.
  • Quakers were complicit. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian churches collaborated with the government to create hundreds of boarding schools for Native American children. The conditions at these schools, more than 30 of them run by Quakers, were unspeakable. It is vital to ground our advocacy efforts in an honest history of Quakers’ oppression of Indigenous people.
  • NYM’s Doctrine of Discovery Committee agrees that this issue is significant and worthy of our attention. We will have the broadest impact when NYM, the monthly meetings and worship groups, and individual Meeting members, all exercise our voices and communicate with the Senators and Representatives of each of the states where NYM members reside.

Why Now?

  • NABS is asking for public support. The movement for boarding school healing has gained an international groundswell this year and we are now in an era of truth and healing, according to Ruth Anna Buffalo, the Board president of NABS.
  • We have a limited amount of time to hear directly from survivors and to record their stories. A Congressional Commission is needed to locate and analyze the records from the 367 known Indian boarding schools that operated in the United States. A commission would also bring together boarding school survivors with a broad cross-section of Tribal representatives and experts in education, health, and children and families to fully express and understand the impacts of this federal policy of removing Indian children from their families and communities.

The Proposed Action:

As people of faith, and as people from a faith tradition directly involved in supporting and
running Native American boarding schools, we call on Congress to create some momentum and legitimacy in the hearts of many American citizens for the truth and healing process. We propose that NYM send letters in support of the legislation to the Congressional delegations of States in which NYM constituent groups reside. We also encourage Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual members of our community to contact their senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress to support, or even co-sponsor, the bill.
For more information: