History Colorado will spend the next year working with Aboriginal partners to research the incidents, physical and emotional abuse, and deaths that occurred at a one-time federal Native American boarding school that is now Fort Lewis College.
The research, which is to result in a report with findings and recommendations, is mandated by HB22-1327, which was signed into law by the government on Tuesday. Jared Police.
The bill requires Colorado to chronicle what happened at the former federal Indian boarding school, now a Southern Colorado college, “including the intergenerational effects of harassment and abuse by families of youths forced to attend boarding schools.”
“This bill is extremely important,” said Ernest House Jr., a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. “People may wonder if this is part of Colorado’s past.”
When the research is complete, History Colorado will be required to provide final reports on its findings to the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs, the Southern Ute Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and work with tribal partners to develop further plans. Is.
State archaeologist and state archaeologist Holly Norton said, “I’m really excited and grateful that the state legislature and governor have recognized our need as a state to make sure that we do what we now have on state land.” addressing.” Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer at History Colorado.
A recent federal investigation found that five federal Indian boarding schools once operated in the state:
- Fort Lewis Indian Boarding School in Hesperus, 1892–1956
- Good Shepherd Industrial School in Denver, 1886-1914
- Grand Junction Indian School, 1886-1911
- Southern Ute Boarding School at Ignacio, 1886-1981
- Ute Mountain Boarding School, Touwak, 1907–1942.
The new state law, however, addressed only two schools: the former site of Fort Lewis in Hesperus, and Grand Junction School, also known as the Taylor Indian School.
The bill states that the state’s Department of Human Services now owns and operates a regional center for people with intellectual disabilities on the Grand Junction property.
The bill requires a state agency to vacate the property, sell all or a portion of it, or transfer all or a portion of the property to a state institution of higher education, a local government, a state agency, or a federally recognized tribe in Colorado. is required to do.
The Department is not required to sell or relocate the Grand Junction property after any graves of former boarding school students have been identified and mapped, and the Department will work with tribal governments to develop a plan to “accept abuse and harassment.” After” of students and families related to the operation of the school. ,
Hundreds of Native American boarding schools existed across the country as federal government institutions recruited indigenous children in an effort to assimilate their culture and force.
Norton will lead the research, noting that this year will focus primarily on in-depth archival research and archaeological work.
The National Archives at the former federal facility in Fort Lewis holds federal documents that will be examined, but Norton said a good deal of research will be done using local news, such as old newspaper reports.
Norton and his team will also probe through archaeological work done in the area in the past and begin new work using contemporary remote sensing tools to discover the grounds for graves.
“What we will do is set an incredible groundwork and really begin to identify the daily experiences of the participating students and we will be able to take this to our tribal partners and take their perspective and identify what needs to happen. done further, whether it is further research into different paths or other types of programming, where we can hopefully begin to heal or at least address these atrocities and identify the real ways in which From which we as a state can begin to amend,” Norton said.
House Jr. said the bill puts Colorado in a good position to establish strong ties with indigenous communities here for these important conversations.
“The tribes need to be in the driver’s seat,” House Junior said. “They need to give direction to how these conversations should go, so using this money to start the tribal consultation process and guide the tribes – it’s huge.”
The bill appropriates $618,611 to the Department of Higher Education for use by the Colorado History for Research program.
“Although this law is in place for one year, these negotiations will continue for many years,” Norton said. “It’s a big issue and it won’t be done until June of 2023.”