Tribal leaders and others are absorbing the impact of the recently-released report on boarding schools from the U.S. Department of Interior. An organization in South Dakota aims to honor children students who died at boarding schools in that state with a memorial project. South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s Lee Strubinger reports they also intend to push for more follow-through from those responsible
The new federal report shows South Dakota had 30 boarding schools, the fourth most in the country.
Federal government policy forced assimilation for native children, including language and culture eradication.
Amy Sazue is Sicangu and Oglala Lakota. She’s the executive director of the Remembering the Children memorial project. Sazue says there’s more to come from the federal investigation.
“Very notably, it’s just a first step,” Sazue says. “Tons of records that still need to be located. Churches, offices, state offices and city offices that need to be held accountable. Graves and children that need to be found a protected.
So far, the investigation has identified at least 500 deaths at boarding schools across the country. It’s found 33 marked burial sites, six unmarked burial sites, and 14 locations with both marked and unmarked burial sites. The Interior Department says it will not disclose specific locations of burial sites, to protect against grave-robbing, vandalism, and other disturbances.
Local researchers previously determined at least 45 children died at the Rapid City Indian School, which is now the location of the Oyate Health Center.
The memorial project will honor those children at a spot behind West Middle School in Rapid City. The group will break ground on the memorial later this year.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt says he is concerned that tribes in the state are working to set up safe havens for abortion clinics following a new law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
Stitt, who is Cherokee, told Fox News Sunday that tribes in Oklahoma are, quote, “super liberal.”
“We think that there’s a possibility that some tribes may try to set up abortion on demand. They think that you could be 1/1000 tribal member and and not have to follow the state law. And so that’s something that we’re watching. But I’ll tell you this, Oklahomans will not take will not think very well of that if the tribal member tribes tried to shut up abortion clinics abortion on demand in eastern Oklahoma, because the expansion of of tribal lands includes the city of Tulsa now, which is a million person MSA.”
Nearly 40% of eastern Oklahoma is reservation land according to a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which makes those areas subject to tribal and federal laws. But KOSU radio reports under the Hyde Amendment, federal funds cannot be used to provide abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life, so any clinic providing abortions on tribal land would need to use private funds.
No Oklahoma tribes have announced any plans to establish abortion clinics on tribal land.
American Indians and Alaska Natives suffered the largest increase in firearm suicides from 2019 to 2020. Robyn Vincent with the Mountain West News Bureau has more.
Dr. Tim Simon co-wrote the new CDC report that showed this deep disparity. He says there are multiple factors at play, including poverty.
“Firearm homicide and suicide are associated with economic conditions and how racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in communities with high surrounding poverty.”
The report found that 24% of the U.S. population lived in counties with high poverty rates in 2020. For American Indians and Alaska Natives, that percentage was nearly double.
Dr. Simon says potential reasons for the increase in firearm suicides include a spike in gun sales and the many stressors people have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, there is help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.
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