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Gov. Tony Evers issues order apologizing for Wisconsin's role in Indian boarding schools

Posted at 11:56 AM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 12:56:51-04

ONEIDA (NBC 26) — On Indigenous Peoples Day, Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order formally acknowledging and apologizing for Wisconsin's "historical role" in Indian boarding schools.

"For more than a century between the 1860s and 1970s, the U.S. federal government induced and coerced thousands of Native American children from their families and homes, placing them into boarding schools funded by the U.S. government operated by the government and religious organizations," a statement from the governor's office said. "Estimates indicate thousands of children were forced to attend day and boarding schools across the country. Residential schools sought to force assimilation of Native American children by isolating them from their cultural identities, punishing them for speaking their native language or practicing their traditions, prohibiting them from wearing traditional clothing, and requiring children to cut their hair."

There were at least 10 day and boarding schools operated in Wisconsin where thousands of Native children attended, according to Gov. Evers' statement. Additionally, the statement says hundreds of children from Wisconsin were sent to attend out-of-state boarding schools in places like Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Virginia.

"The residential schools have had intergenerational effects on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities, including emotional trauma and culture and language loss, among many other long-lasting, negative consequences," said the Governor's statement.

“As a state, we share responsibility for acknowledging the pain inflicted on Tribal communities historically and even still today. We also have a moral obligation to pursue the truth and to bring these injustices to light in Wisconsin and across our country because that understanding and acknowledgment is essential for accountability and healing,” said Gov. Evers.

Gov. Evers' announcement comes after more than 1,300 students were found in Canada at residential school sites earlier this year. After the discovery, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to comprehensively review historical records and legacy of U.S. boarding school policies.

Monday's executive order from Gov. Evers also expresses support for federal investigations into Indian boarding schools.

The governor's office said marks the third time Wisconsin has celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day, first recognized in 2019 when Gov. Evers signed Executive Order No. 50 to recognize the day annually on the second Monday in October.

Wisconsin is home to 11 federally recognized Native Nations and one federally unrecognized nation, the governor's office said, including Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Forest County Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Sokaogon Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, St Croix Chippewa Tribe of Wisconsin, Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribe and Brothertown Indian Nation.