“The Road to Healing” begins in Anadarko

OklahomaEducationPoliticsCommunity Indigenous
Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 07/10/2022, 7:57 PM

Photo Courtesy: Muscogee Creek Nation

(CADDO COUNTY, Okla.) A year-long effort to give Indian boarding school survivors and their descendants the opportunity to share their stories began in Anadarko on Saturday. 

“It was a time to listen, to weep and to look ahead to healing our communities,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said.

Haaland announced the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative in June of last year, saying she knew the process of addressing intergenerational impact and shedding light on the traumas of the past would be long, difficult, and painful. 

“But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we’re all proud to embrace,” Haaland said.    

Saturday’s stop took place at the Riverside Indian School, one of 408 federal schools across 37 states or then territories listed in Volume 1 of the initiative’s investigative report

Oklahoma topped the list of Indian boarding schools in the United States with 83. 

The investigation also identified marked or unmarked burial sites at more than 50 schools, and the Department expects that number to increase as the investigation continues. 

“We appreciate Secretary Deb Haaland and the U.S. Department of the Interior for taking on this very important project,” Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said. “We also thank the many partners, tribal nations, individuals and families that have participated and shared their story so far. May we continue to build on this initiative so that we can learn and offer healing to those affected.” 

Trauma-informed support was available on-site. Chickasaw Nation spokesperson Tony Choate said survivors and their families can be connected to follow-up support, as requested.

“The stories of boarding school experiences are difficult to hear and re-visit, but we have to tell them so that the world knows,” Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief David Hill said. 

Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, became the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary in 2021. She detailed her family’s own Indian boarding school experiences in a Washington Post op-ed not long after. 


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