U.S. Indigenous boarding-school probe follows Pope’s apology in Canada

Native American Students in a boarding schools Credit: Wikimedia commons

Washington/CMEDIA: Following a Pope’s apology and the historic moment of healing for Indigenous Peoples in Canada, a federal report on residential schools is being anxiously awaited by their counterparts in the United States, who also hope for the start of a similar reckoning.

For a long time, Indigenous leaders in Canada had been seeking the Pope’s personal apology as a gesture of reconciliation for harm done to children who were forced to attend schools run across the country by the Roman Catholic Church for more than a century.

That cathartic moment and the imminent release of the report have combined to put church leaders on notice in the U.S., of preparation ofreconciliation of their own.

Chieko Noguchi of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishopsn said the conference has been encouraging dioceses and state Catholic conferences across the country to reach out to Indigenous communities to initiate conversations in anticipation of the report.

Deb Haaland. the first Indigenous secretary of the interior in U.S., orderd the report, which aims to identify all of the schools that were part of the program, including any records relating to cemeteries or potential burial sites which may later be used to assist in locating unidentified human remains..

The report, scheduled for release in April, is expected to serve as a jumping-off point for a host of reconciliation efforts, Department of the Interior spokesman Tyler Cherry said in a statement.

The report will also address the intergenerational impact of these assimilationist policies to provide a foundation for ongoing research, site visits, and stakeholder engagement.

But Indigenous history and the scope and scale of the saga of residential schools dramatically differ in the two countries. A driving force in Canadian racial politics, Indigenous issues have long been overshadowed or invisible in the U.S. by Black-white dynamic.

As a result, the report is expected to address in terms of native peoples here in United States, rather than revealing truth and reconciliation of the kind seen in Canada.