Federal report identifies Native boarding schools across country; includes local sites

A new report by the US Department of the Interior has identified more than 400 federally-run schools for Native American children across the nation.

Included in the report were 15 schools in Washington, with two of them in the Grays Harbor area.

Yakima School girls, Fort Simcoe, Washington [Photograph]. (n.d.). American Indians of the Pacific Northwest
Images Digital Collection, Estelle Reel Collection, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report is the first time that the Department has developed an official list of these schools.

The Department found that between 1819 to 1969, the Federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 Federal schools across 37 states or then-territories, including 21 schools in Alaska and 7 schools in Hawaii.

15 sites were found to be in Washington.

The local schools listed were the Chehalis Boarding and Day School in Oakville and the Quinaielt Boarding and Day School in Taholah.

The Department has also started to identify locations of marked and unmarked burial sites of remains of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children at or near school facilities.

The report states that the Interior Department has already identified marked or unmarked burial sites at approximately 53 different schools across the Federal Indian boarding school system. 

Those locations have not been released.

Based on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative investigation’s initial analysis, approximately 19 Federal Indian boarding schools accounted for over 500 American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian child deaths. As the investigation continues, the Department expects the number of recorded deaths to increase.

Washington schools identified in the report include:

  • Quinaielt Boarding and Day School in Taholah
  • Chehalis Boarding and Day School in Oakville
  • Colville Mission School in Kettle Falls
  • Cushman Indian School in Tacoma
  • Fort Simcoe Indian Boarding School in White Swan
  • Fort Spokane Boarding School in Davenport
  • Neah Bay Boarding and Day School in Neah Bay
  • Puyallup Indian School in Squaxin Island
  • S’Kokomish Boarding and Day School in Olympia
  • St. George Indian Residential School in Federal Way
  • St. Joseph’s Boarding School in Federal Way
  • Paschal Sherman Indian School in Omak
  • Tonasket Boarding School in Tonasket
  • Tulalip Indian Industrial School in Tulalip Bay
  • Tulalip Mission School in Priest’s Point

In a statement, Governor Inslee said that more information is needed and being sought to determine whether Washington state served as a co-operator of any of these schools.

“The federal and state governments of the United States have dealt tremendous loss and suffering to the Native and Indigenous people throughout generations, including the horrific and systematic erasure of their culture and their children,” Inslee said in response to the report. “It is difficult to confront such hard truths about our past, but it is necessary for healing and progress. Washington state stands ready to do what we can to acknowledge the trauma and harm these schools caused, and uplift the efforts of those who fight to ensure the many Tribal languages, cultures and knowledge persist and flourish.”

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. You can read her op-ed about her family’s experience with federal boarding schools.