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Religion's Role in Native American Boarding Schools

The recent discoveries of more than 1,300 unmarked graves at the sites of four former residential schools in western Canada have shocked and horrified Canadians and the world. This has spurred an interest here in the United States to understand the history of our Native American boarding schools in the 19th and 20th centuries. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies. Since many of these schools were run by religious orders, the National Museum of American Religion felt that it would be helpful if we convened a panel of experts to discuss religion’s role in our Native American boarding school history.

We have with us today the following experts:

  • Dr. Ashley Dreff is the General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church. Previously she was an Assistant Professor of Religion and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at High Point University.

  • Rev. Dr. Bradley Hauff is Episcopal Church Missioner for Indigenous Ministries and a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff. As Missioner for Indigenous Ministries, Rev. Hauff is responsible for enabling and empowering Indigenous peoples and their respective communities within the Episcopal Church. He holds a Master of Divinity from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary & a Doctor of Clinical Psychology from Minnesota School of Professional Psychology of Argosy University.

  • Dr. Farina King, is of English-American descent, born for Kinyaa’anii, or the Towering House Clan, of Dine’ (Navajo). She is a citizen of the Navajo Nation. & Associate Professor of History at Northeastern State University in Talequah, homelands of the Cherokee Nation and United Keetowah Band of Cherokees

  • Dr. Brenda J. Child is Northrop Professor of American Studies and former chair of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940. Dr. Child served as a member of the board of trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian. She was born on the Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota

  • Christine Diindiisi McCleave is an Indigenous consultant, and a doctoral student in Indigenous Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a focus on healing historical trauma through the use of traditional plant medicines. She is the former CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

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