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Tribal elders recall painful boarding school memories

Indian boarding schools
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Donald Neconie, 84, a former U.S. Marine and member of the Kiowa Tribe, recounts his experiences as a child at an Indian boarding school Saturday, July 9, 2022, in Anadarko, Okla., during a meeting to hear about the painful experiences of Native Americans who were sent to government-backed boarding schools designed to strip them of their cultural identities. One by one, Native American tribal elders who were once students at government-backed Indian boarding schools testified about the hardships they endured: beatings, whippings, sexual assaults, forced haircuts and painful nicknames.

Native American tribal elders in Oklahoma delivered powerful testimony to federal officials about their experiences in government-backed Indian boarding schools.

The stop Saturday at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, Oklahoma, was the first visit by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

She has embarked on a yearlong nationwide tour to hear about the painful experiences of Native Americans who were sent to the schools designed to strip them of their cultural identities.

Although most of the boarding schools closed long ago and none still exist to assimilate Native children into white society, some like Riverside still function as schools, albeit with drastically different missions that celebrate the cultural backgrounds of their Native students.