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The largest list of U.S. Indian Boarding Schools to date

The students of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania are amassed on the grounds of the school in March of 1892.
John N. Choate
Cumberland County Historical Society Photo Archives
The students of the Carlisle Indian School are amassed on the grounds of the school in March of 1892.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) has released the largest list of Indian boarding schools in the U.S. The information has been published as a digital map which aims to bring more visibility to this painful chapter of U.S. history.

Between 1869 and the 1960s hundreds of thousands of Native American children were removed from their homes and placed in these boarding schools. The schools’ mission was to completely strip the children’s Native culture from them. Many of the children did not return home.

Last May, the U.S. Department of Interior identified 408 boarding schools operated, funded or supported by the U.S. government. The coalition found an additional 115 schools which were mostly operated by church institutions.

Deborah Parker, who is Tulalip, is the coalition’s CEO.

"You go on this map, you can literally zoom in to learn basic information about any known Indian boarding school, including their years of operation, who ran them, and historical notes to help contextualize the unique history of each institution," Parker said.

Parker says the 523 schools are spread out across 38 states. Washington had 15 of them. She says she hopes the map can help support educators teaching about this part of history, historians, researchers, and most importantly, the Native American families who had relatives in these schools.

"This is my grandmother, this was my great-grandmother," Parker said. "These were family members who were greatly abused and we wonder why we can't have some of the I don't know I guess some might say normalcy of life because the boarding school robbed us of many of those memories or that time that we could have spent with that relative."

Among the 15 schools in Washington state that can be found on the online map are ones in Federal, Way, Tacoma, and Olympia. The coalition believes there are still schools out there that haven't been identified yet.

"There's a history that is important for us to understand as not only US citizens, and citizens of our own tribal nations, but also there's others who need to understand this history so that we do not repeat this type of abuse," Parker said.

Grace Madigan is KNKX's former Arts & Culture reporter. Her stories focused on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.