Finding Justice: Colorado’s Indian Boarding Schools Now Under Investigation
New legislation passed in Colorado is set to uncover information about what transpired at Indian boarding schools within the state.
Governor Jared Polis of Colorado recently signed HB22-1327 into law which establishes the federal Indian boarding school research program which will explore the dark history of Indian boarding schools in Colorado.
What is the Federal Indian Boarding School Research Program in Colorado?
The Federal Indian Boarding School research program has been created to:
Research events, abuse, and deaths that occurred at federal Indian boarding schools in Colorado.
Friends, family, and Native American community members who occupied the land long before European settlers, watched helplessly as their youth were forcibly taken and placed at Indian boarding schools.
Some of these children were never seen again, while others returned traumatized, broken, and scarred.
Federal Indian Boarding Schools in the U.S.
Across the United States, there were over 350 federal Indian boarding schools. These Indian boarding schools were created to completely crush any remnants of Native American culture and sought to " kill the Indian to save the man.”
Operating under the guise of teaching agriculture and economics, federal Indian boarding schools forced Native American children to perform hard and strenuous labor while living in devastating conditions.
While many Native Americans refused to send their children to these boarding schools, recruiters were undeterred. Native American children were often hog-tied and kidnapped while their family was threatened.
Thanks to these atrocious methods, nearly 83 percent of all Native children of school age were in boarding schools by 1926.
Federal Indian Boarding Schools in Colorado
Here in Colorado, there were 5 federal Indian boarding schools:
- Fort Lewis Indian Boarding School in Hesperus (1892-1956)
- Good Shepherd Industrial School in Denver (1886-1914)
- Grand Junction Indian School in Grand Junction (1886-1911)
- Southern Ute Boarding School in Ignacio (1886-1981)
- Ute Mountain Boarding School in Towaoc (1907-1942)
According to the bill:
The Teller Institute and Fort Lewis College are currently operated by the state of Colorado and it is understood that Native children may have died at these schools and were buried on the school grounds;
Mass graves of Native American children remain unfound, their voices silenced over the decades.
The general assembly has declared that:
it is in the interest of the state and its citizens to better understand and acknowledge Colorado's history with federal Indian boarding schools and develop a roadmap for
education and healing.
Thanks to the new bill, the former Teller institute located in Grand Junction will not be sold or transferred until the graves of former Native American students of the boarding school have been mapped, identified, and honored.