Washington, D.C. – Last
week, Alaska Congressman Don Young introduced a House Resolution supporting the designation of a national day of remembrance for the Native American children who died while attending a United States Indian boarding schools, and to recognize, honor, and support boarding school survivors and families. Upon introduction, Congressman Young was joined by Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Ed Case (D-HI), Kai Kahele (D-HI), David Joyce (R-OH), Theresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). A Senate companion has been introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski, and joined by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mike Rounds (R-SD).
Thursday, September 30th marked Orange Shirt Day, a Canadian holiday serving as a national day of remembrance for victims of Canadian boarding schools. On this day, individuals are encouraged to wear orange shirts to raise awareness of those killed in Native boarding schools. In recent years, Orange Shirt Day has become increasingly recognized in the United States. The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has also declared September 30th as a National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools.
“The history of federal boarding school programs for Native Americans is dark, and has caused significant pain for our First Peoples, including Alaska Natives. These institutions were expressly designed to force Native assimilation, thereby crushing rich histories and unique cultures. We have felt this in Alaska. Just 13 years ago, the last speaker of the Eyak language passed away, resulting in a tragic loss for future generations. My late wife, children, and grandchildren are Alaska Native, which makes understanding the past and protecting Indigenous people in the future deeply important to me. The fact that these boarding schools operated in Alaska within my lifetime shows just how fresh of a wound this is for Native communities,” said Congressman Don Young. “Sadly, many Americans are unfamiliar with this history and are rightfully alarmed to learn of these horrific policies. I am proud to help introduce a resolution to create a national day of remembrance for those who were victimized by these boarding schools and their policies of forced assimilation. It is my great hope that through this resolution, we can raise awareness about these schools and secure justice for their countless victims and their descendants. As Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, I will continue doing all that I can to stand up for Native communities in Alaska and across the country.”