BOARDING SCHOOLS TRIBUNAL: Truth Commissioners’ Summary Statement

In January 26, 2015

We have found that the incidences testified to during the Indigenous Peoples’ Boarding Schools Tribunal held on October 22-24, 2014 violated, inter alia, the following articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC):

Article 7 (Name & Nationality), Article 8 (Right to Preservation of Identity), Article 12 (Right to Participation), Article 13 (Freedom of Expression), Article 30 (Right to Cultural Identity), Article 5 (Right for Parental Guidance & Evolving Capacities), Article 9 (Freedom from Separation from Parents), Article 35 (Freedom from Forced Abduction), Article 6 (Right to Life, Survival & Development), Article 24 (Right to Health & Health Services), Article 25 (Right to Periodic Review of Placement), Article 39 (Right to Rehabilitative Care), Article 14 (Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion), Article 16 (Right to Correspondence & Privacy), Article 17 (Freedom of Information), Article 19 (Protection from Abuse & Neglect), Article 20 (Special Protection of Children under State Care), Article 34 (Protection from Sexual Exploitation), Article 36 (Freedom from other forms of Exploitation), Article 37 (Freedom from Torture & Cruel, Inhuman & Degrading Treatment or Punishment).

These violations are described in detail below.

In addition to these specific violations, overarching CRC articles, which were systematically violated include Article 2 (Discrimination), Article 3 (Best Interests of Child), Article 27 (Right to an Adequate Standard of Living), Article 28 & 29 (Right to Education), Article 31 (Right to Rest, Leisure, Recreation and Cultural Activities).

This Summary Statement is not an exclusive list of human rights violations that occurred due to the boarding school system. The violations listed below are only a partial accounting of the harm caused by boarding schools, which in no way limits the finding of additional violations in the future, either by us or by another body. We were tremendously honored by the invitation to participate in this truth telling exercise and to present our reactions in a summary statement. We submit this statement to the tribunal as a humble testament to the fact that we stand in solidarity with boarding school survivors and with Indigenous communities continuing to suffer the effects of the boarding school system.

RIGHT TO LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY. Witnesses described how children were prohibited from speaking their native language in boarding schools. Children were punished for speaking their own language and only allowed to use English. Additionally, children were given new names and clothing, further undermining, and shaming them for, their cultural identity. The style and length of the children’s hair was connected to their spiritual beliefs and customs; in boarding schools, their hair was cut as an act of punishment and an erasure of their spiritual traditions. The children were denied the right to their traditional beliefs and cultural practices, the right to their names and their tribal nationalities, and the right to participate freely in their own culture and society with their friends, family, and loved ones. (CRC, Article 7 (Name & Nationality), Article 8 (Right to Preservation of Identity), Article 12 (Right to Participation), Article 13 (Freedom of Expression), and Article 30 (Right to Cultural Identity)).

In fact, not only were these rights denied, but attempts were actively made by boarding school officials to destroy the children’s links with their culture and nationality. Children were shamed and punished for their cultural identity, their language, their religion, their clothing, their hair, and their names. They were taught that their very identities were bad and wrong, and that in order to be good and right they must no longer be Indigenous. Witness testimony linked this breaking down of culture and systematic shaming and abuse to the high suicide rate and the addiction epidemics that have plagued Indigenous communities.

RIGHT TO FAMILY. Witnesses testified to a policy of encouraging the forced sterilization of Indigenous women to limit the reproductive rights of Indigenous families. This policy existed in concert with and alongside the policy of sending Indigenous children to boarding schools.

Through the boarding school system, children were removed from their parents’ guardianship and care, sometimes explicitly against their parents’ wishes. Even where the consent of parents appeared to be present, the environment of force and coercion present on the reservations rendered this consent in actuality non-existent. Children were denied access to their parents and parents were not able to bond with their children and develop their parenting skills. Siblings were also not allowed to speak with one another at the boarding schools. Children were encouraged to practice violent behavior against each other in the boarding schools, in an attempt to destroy peer relationships. Subsequently, future generations of Indigenous children were affected because of the physical and psychological impacts of the boarding school experiences on their elders.

Violence was institutionalized in boarding schools. Children were taught that violence against children was the norm, and even that it was positive and accepted. Instead of parenting skills, boarding school students were taught to abuse their own children, thus perpetuating this cycle of violence and inter-generational trauma. A number of witnesses testified to their hard work in learning parenting skills, abandoning the violence forced on them at boarding schools, and breaking the cycle of abuse. These witnesses should be commended for their struggle in the face of institutionalized abuse and violence. Unfortunately, though some boarding school survivors were able to begin healing themselves and their families, the inter-generational trauma of the boarding schools continues to claim casualties, as demonstrated by the high suicide and addiction rates in Indigenous communities as noted above. (CRC, Article 5 (Right for Parental Guidance & Evolving Capacities), Article 9 (Freedom from Separation from Parents), Article 35 (Freedom from Forced Abduction)).

RIGHT TO SURVIVAL AND DEVELOPMENT & RIGHT TO HEALTH. Children were not provided adequate food and access to health services for their full development. (CRC, Article 6 (Right to Life, Survival & Development), Article 24 (Right to Health & Health Services), Article 25 (Right to Periodic Review of Placement), Article 39 (Right to Rehabilitative Care)).

FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF. Children were forced to be baptized and to participate in and perform religious activities that were not of their own backgrounds. They were deprived of the right to participate in their own spiritual ceremonies. (CRC, Article 14 (Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion)).

PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE. Testimonies revealed that school officials interfered with private correspondence between family and the children creating rifts between families and breaking family bonds, adding to the psychological, physical, and spiritual abuse of children. Children’s identity papers were taken and did not know how to return home. Children could be moved from one boarding school to another without parental consent. (CRC, Article 16 (Right to Correspondence & Privacy), Article 17 (Freedom of Information)).

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT, ABUSE, AND EXPLOITATION. From the many testimonies that were presented during the tribunal, it was clear that many of the children who went to boarding schools faced different forms of corporal punishment. Children were sent to boarding schools at a very young age. It was noted that children were made to do physical work that was not appropriate for their ages. Where children went together with their siblings, it was found that schools made an effort to keep siblings apart, further inflicting mental trauma and abuse. Apart from the corporal punishment, from a number of testimonies it can be concluded that many children were sexually abused as well in the boarding schools. (CRC, Article 19 (Protection from Abuse & Neglect), Article 20 (Special Protection of Children under State Care), Article 34 (Protection from Sexual Exploitation), Article 36 (Freedom from other forms of Exploitation), Article 37 (Freedom from Torture & Cruel, Inhuman & Degrading Treatment or Punishment)).

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Indigenous Peoples

● Engage youth to 25 year-olds in the process of truth telling and remembrance

● Encourage elders to not only share their boarding school experiences, but also their stories of resilience, courage, and drive to overcome the challenges they faced.

● Set a memorial date to honor and pay tribute to those individuals who were a part of the boarding schools and who faced discrimination, violence, and even death.

● Coordinate oral history projects and similar Tribunals to gather stories of boarding school impacts in other Indigenous communities across the US.

● Publish a joint testimony including the stories from all Indigenous tribes in the US about the impact of boarding schools on their human rights.

● Begin a consultative status between the Indigenous communities and the US government.

● Encourage the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by sovereign, Indigenous nations throughout the United States.

US Government

● Acknowledge the human rights violations, which occurred through the boarding schools established by the US Government.

● Implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the US.

● Work for a new International Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, collaborating with the Indigenous communities across the US.

● Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Truth Commission Members: Fasoha (Maldives) , Aneeta Aahooja (Pakistan), Abalo Assih (Togo), Shiran Gooneratne (Sri Lanka), Athar Waheed (Pakistan), Kristi Rudelius-Palmer (University of Minnesota Human Rights Center)

Blue Skies Foundation
Preserving Indigenous Cultures, Languages, & Traditions
  • N5679 Skylark Drive, DePere, WI 54115
  • (920) 869-2641

Like Us

Recent Tweets

  • What I Found in Standing Rock | By Bronson Koenig https://t.co/XCqj44IVjU
  • Whistleblower John Bolenbaugh tears up explaining Standing Rock's importance https://t.co/zPvYDigYPO
  • https://t.co/ZJRwTaNQ33

Visitors

Views

Pages|Views |Unique

  • Last 24 hours: 136
  • Last 7 days: 864
  • Last 30 days: 6,286
  • Online now: 2