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Department Of Interior Report Includes Role Of Religious Institutions In Indian Boarding School Policies


Last month, the Department of Interior released Volume 1 of an investigative report as part of its Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative designed to explore the legacy of past Indian boarding school policies. The Report (full text) released on May 11 includes a section (pp. 46-50) on The Role of Religious Institutions and Organizations in the Federal Indian Boarding School System, which says in part:

Indian reservations “were distributed among the major religious denominations, which, in an unprecedented delegation of power by the Federal Government to church bodies, were given the right to nominate new agents, and direct educational and other activities on the reservations.” … [T]he Executive accepted official recommendations by religious institutions and organizations for presidential appointed posts in states and territories…. [T]he U.S. “military was frequently called in to reinforce the missionaries’ orders.

The report quotes an 1886 memo from an Indian School Superintendent to the Secretary of Interior on boarding schools operated by religious institutions:

The Government aid furnished enables them to sustain their missions, and renders it possible … to lead these people, whose paganism has been the chief obstacle to their civilization, into the light of Christianity – a work in which the Government cannot actively engage … They should receive the encouragement and co-operation of all Government employés.


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