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Washington State’s Attorney General’s office has formed a Truth & Reconciliation Tribal Advisory Committee to collect oral testimonies and recommend how the state can address present-day harms caused by Indian boarding school policies.

Washington, a state home to 29 federally recognized tribes, hosted 17 of the nation’s more than 500 Indian Boarding Schools, according to an up-to-date list from the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. The institutions operated from the 1800s through 1970 with the aim to forcibly assimilate Native children into white society.

On Oct. 3, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the five-person committee, which includes representatives from Yakama Nation, Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, Quinault Indian Nation, Tlingit and Cowichan First Nations, and Lummi Nation.

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“These schools are not just a shameful part of our history — the trauma they caused reverberates through generations of Indigenous families,” Ferguson said in a statement. “With this new committee, we start a long but essential journey toward healing.”

The committee will hold public listening sessions across the state over the next year to hear accounts from boarding school attendees and their descendants in an effort to “[uncover] the full history of Indian boarding schools in Washington,” according to a press release from Ferguson’s office. The listening sessions will begin in January 2024.

Additionally, the Tribal Advisory Committee will utilize the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Investigative Report, in addition to the Native American Boarding School healing coalition’s work—to research the history of the 17 schools identified in Washington. 

Deborah Parker (Tulalip), CEO of The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and a tribal member based in the state, said that her organization is grateful for Washington state’s leadership in not only seeking truth but promoting healing. 

“We need other states to follow suit and work with Tribes and Native communities to bring the truth about this dark history to light,” Parker said.

The committee will submit a report to the state in 2025 with recommendations on how the state can address the harm caused by Indian boarding schools and other cultural and linguistic termination practices.

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About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Senior Reporter
Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.