WASHINGTON, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Native American children suffered abuse at federal Indian boarding schools between 1819 and 1969, according to an official report on Wednesday.
The federal Indian boarding school system was "expansive," consisting of 408 schools across 37 states or then-territories, showed the report released by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The system "deployed militarized and identity-alteration methodologies to assimilate American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people -- primarily children -- through education," the 106-page report revealed.
It also "discouraged or prevented the use of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages or cultural or religious practices through punishment," the findings read.
Corporal punishment included "solitary confinement, flogging, withholding food, whipping, slapping, and cuffing." At times, older Indian children were made to punish the younger ones.
The research also identified marked and unmarked burial sites at 53 of those schools and found that "hundreds of Indian children died" throughout the federal Indian boarding school system.
"The Department expects that continued investigation will reveal the approximate number of Indian children who died at federal Indian boarding schools to be in the thousands or tens of thousands," it added.
"The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies -- including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old -- are heartbreaking and undeniable," Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.
"We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face," Haaland continued. "It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal."
Haaland announced the "Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative" -- an effort to address the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies -- after the discovery of the unmarked graves in Canada last year.
The document released on Wednesday is volume one of the investigation, which will continue under Bryan Newland, assistant secretary of the Interior for Indian affairs.
In a statement, Newland said this report "presents the opportunity for us to reorient federal policies to support the revitalization of Tribal languages and cultural practices to counteract nearly two centuries of federal policies aimed at their destruction."
Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and implemented policies establishing and supporting Indian boarding schools across the nation.
Federal records indicate that the United States viewed official disruption to the Indian family unit as part of federal Indian policy to assimilate Indian children.
The purpose of Indian boarding schools, according to the Interior Department, "was to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly relocating them from their families and communities to distant residential facilities where their American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian identities, languages, and beliefs were to be forcibly suppressed."
For over 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities.
As part of the U.S. federal government's executive branch, the Department of the Interior manages public lands and minerals, national parks, and wildlife refuges, and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as certain other communities. ■