ICYMI: Interior Department and National Endowment for the Humanities Partner to Preserve Federal Indian Boarding School Oral History and Records

From National Endowment for the Humanities: The Department of the Interior and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced a new inter-agency partnership to expand the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative through the collection of oral histories and digitization of records documenting the experiences of survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies. NEH has committed $4 million to support the digitization of records from the United States’ system of 408 federal Indian boarding schools and the creation of a permanent oral history collection, documenting the experiences of the generations of Indigenous students who passed through the federal boarding school system.

The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative is an ongoing, comprehensive effort by the Interior Department to recognize the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies with the goal of addressing their intergenerational impact and shedding light on the traumas of the past. 

Creating a permanent oral history program on the history of federal Indian boarding schools has never before been undertaken by the U.S. government and is a resource that has been requested by Indigenous communities. The Department’s oral history project will ensure stories and experiences that survivors share can be understood and learned from for future generations.   

As part of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative and in response to recommendations from the report, Secretary Haaland launched “The Road to Healing.” This year-long commitment to travel across the country is giving Indigenous survivors the opportunity to share their stories and be connected with trauma-informed support. NEH’s Chair Lowe has joined DOI staff at several stops on “The Road to Healing,” including this week’s event on the Tulalip Reservation in Washington State. The oral history project will build on this effort to create space for survivors. Details regarding the facilitation of this effort will be released in the coming weeks.  

In addition to NEH’s direct support for the Interior Department’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, NEH will also fund related humanities programs—including scholarly research, convenings, and educational programs—that further public understanding of the history and impact of the federal Indian boarding school system. This funding builds upon previous NEH-supported work such as the Heard Museum’s Away From Home permanent exhibition of American Indian boarding school stories, and the Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project, which is digitizing and transcribing government records, photographs, oral histories, and other historical materials documenting the experience of Native American children who attended the Genoa U.S. Indian School in Nebraska between 1884 and 1934.

Read the full announcement here.