WASHINGTON, DC—September 30, 2021—The National Indian Health Board (NIHB), joins the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in recognizing September 30, 2021 as the National Day of Remembrance for U.S. Indian Boarding Schools.  Further, today we applaud Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congresswoman Sharice Davids, and Congressman Tom Cole for introducing the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act.  This bill would establish a Commission to investigate and document the detrimental Indian boarding school policies and historical trauma resulting from those policies and to make recommendations, among others, for federal resources and assistance to aid in healing from that trauma.

September 30 is set aside to acknowledge the experiences and trauma imposed upon Native American children from national Indian policies implemented through federally-supported boarding schools these children were forced to attend. Once they were forcibly taken from their families and sent to these schools, many children never returned. This trauma carried forward to survivors of these schools, their families, and communities.
William Smith, Chairman of the National Indian Health Board, remarked that “the long-term trauma arising from experiences at these Boarding schools has plagued generations of Native people. It was a systematic policy carried out for a hundred years to squash and erase our cultures, language, and traditions in the most brutal ways. It is way past time for justice. It is time to heal. The National Indian Health Board works on this daily and has devoted a day of our national conference, October 7, to the Boarding school issue.  We call upon the federal government to fulfill its trust responsibilities to Tribal nations and provide for behavioral health care and in-patient behavioral health treatment facilities for Tribal communities. Integral to healing, we call for investments in the rebirth, reclaiming and rejuvenation of our cultures, languages, and traditions.”

He further reflected that “too often, this trauma manifests in behavioral health issues including self-medicating through substance abuse or more severe actions such as suicides or suicide attempts. Every child matters so let us not forget those that never returned and those precious children now living through neglect, abuse, and other tragic results of this cruel history. More awareness and education are needed, but more importantly, treatment and health care services are needed for Tribal communities affected by the long-term trauma.”

The National Indian Health Board has led efforts in Congress and the Administration to secure more behavioral health care services as well as in-patient behavioral health treatment facilities, particularly through the Budget Reconciliation measure pending before Congress and in other legislation and administrative means.   

To further honor and remember these Native children, the National Indian Health Board is hosting at the National Tribal Health Conference on Thursday, October 7, a day of Healing Our Trauma: A Discussion to Address the Legacy of Federal Indian Boarding Schools and Looking to the Future. Please join us at the Conference for this important discussion and many other informative events beginning Monday, October 4, virtually.  

Established by the Tribes to advocate as the united voice of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, NIHB seeks to reinforce Tribal sovereignty, strengthen Tribal health systems, secure resources, and build capacity to achieve the highest level of health and well-being for our People.
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