In 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. This initiative, which includes gathering records from the boarding school era, and compiling an official list of boarding school sites, makes visible on a national scale the intergenerational impact federal Indian board schools have had on tribal communities. Currently, there are five schools in the state of Michigan that were identified from the federal investigation process (Holy Childhood Boarding School, Baraga Chippewa Boarding and Day School (Holy Name), Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School, Mackinac Mission School, and Catholic Otchippewa Boarding School). This is not an extensive list of all the other entities, schools, and programs that operated in Michigan through the Indian Civilization Act of 1819.
The Native Justice Coalition’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was launched in July 2022. It seeks to expand its reach to strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in an effort to seek the truth behind the Indian boarding school policies and corresponding actions taken by the government and church. Through this work, the NJC provides safe, supportive, and culturally competent spaces that offer opportunities for healing and uniting our Native communities on this journey. Our goals are to create an Indigenous-led process that is grounded in mutual respect, culturally sensitive, and focused on meeting clearly defined, jointly agreed upon metrics. Our key four priorities are truth and reconciliation, healing our people and our communities, strengthening ICWA and ensuring a cultural identity for our children, and building a strong ecosystem through investment in the Native Justice Coalition.
Without support from community partners such as the Indigenous Law & Policy Center, Native American Institute, and American Indian and Indigenous Studies at Michigan State University, this work would not be possible. This one-day symposium honors that work on a local scale, providing Michigan State University, and the greater Lansing community an opportunity to learn about the intergenerational trauma caused by federal Indian boarding school policies. Attendees will hear first-hand accounts from boarding school survivors and others who can provide the legal, social, and historical context of the Indian boarding schools. By joining together in community to share stories and voices, the symposium provides a space for knowledge and healing.