Researchers made a horrific discovery that at least 102 Native American children died at a government-run boarding school in Nebraska.
From 1884 to 1934, the Genoa Indian Industrial School was one of the 25 federally-run boarding schools in the U.S. The schools’ purpose was to assimilate Native American children into what the federal government believed was normal, and therefore erase their cultural identities.
The Genoa school was one of the largest of its kind. When the schools closed, many destroyed their documents or allowed the documents to be scattered and therefore hard to trace.
Most of the identified dead were young children, as young as four years old. Students attending the school ranged from four into early 20s. Many of the students died from diseases, including tuberculosis, measles and pneumonia. Others died from tragic accidents, including drowning, being struck by a freight train, and being shot.
Researchers said that they used newspaper archives in order to identify dozens of dead children, but that there are likely much more uncounted, meaning the death toll is actually even higher.
State officials have yet to find the school’s cemetery.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland launched over the summer a review into deaths at Native American boarding schools. The investigation, which is not expected until April 2022, is meant to uncover the truth about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of federal policies that separated hundreds of thousands of children from their families and homes in order to attend white-washing boarding schools.
The work is unprecedented for the U.S. government.
The news comes as other countries also reckon with their treatment of indigenous people and a history of being on stolen land. In June, an indigenous nation in Canada found 751 unmarked graves at what used to be a residential school, only weeks after the remains of 215 children were found at a similar school in the country.
Australia too has had to come to terms with its past recently. In August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a fund of $280 million in reparations for members of Australia’s Indigenous population.