Michigan Governor Whitmer Calls for Study of State’s Indian Boarding Schools


Buried in the State of Michigan 2023 budget proposalrevealed earlier this month by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), is a one-paragraph insertion that requests a one-time appropriation of $500,000 to conduct a study on boarding schools.

The proposed credit reads: “A statewide study will be conducted to research the number of Native American children forced to attend boarding schools in Michigan, the number of children who were abused, died or missing in these schools, and the long-term impacts on these children and the families of the children forced to attend these schools.

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The study must be completed by January 30, 2024 and must provide a final report of findings and recommendations to be shared with the general public and the State of Michigan.

According to the paragraph, the study “should work in concert” with the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative set up last June by US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo). When it was created, the Ministry of the Interior used similar language to describe the work of the federal initiative. His conclusions are due to Sec. Haaland by April 1, 2022.

Beyond a one-paragraph insertion in the proposed budget, little has been revealed about how the study will be carried out or who will perform the actual work associated with the study. A call from Native News Online to the governor’s office was not returned by press time.

According to Michigan tribal officials, Governor Whitmer pushed the boarding school study into the state budget after meeting with the 12 federally recognized tribes last September. The 12 tribal leaders expressed the need for such a study in Michigan.

There were at least three known schools in the state of Michigan that are now closed: Holy Childhood of Jesus in Harbor Springs; Holy Name in Baraga; and the Mt. Pleasant Indian School in Mt. Pleasant. Each of these schools received approximately 200 to 300 children per year. All of these schools had cemeteries. The last of these schools to close was Holy Childhood, which finally closed in 1983.

Each year, the Michigan State Legislature must approve the budget submitted by the Governor of Michigan. The lawmakers we contacted hope that this budget will pass with this addition. However, Sen. Irwin (D-18e), a citizen of the Sault Tribe, says he’s sure there will be some opposition from his Conservative counterparts.

He also strongly supports the study and feels that the Catholic Diocese should cooperate with this study saying:

“If they are cooperating and engaging in good faith, I also believe that religious organizations such as the Catholic Diocese of Michigan should be involved and pass on whatever information they have regarding their role in the operation of these schools.”

Michigan State Rep. Rachel Hood (D-76th District) also voices her support for the addition, saying:

“We must work every day to right the wrongs perpetrated against our Indigenous neighbours. I applaud the Governor’s request for a study of Native residential schools in the Department of Civil Rights Executive’s budget recommendation. She also explains precisely what she wants to see highlighted in the study. “We need to study the number of children who were forced to attend these schools, the number of children who died, disappeared or were abused in these schools as well as the generational impacts these schools have had on Indigenous communities. of our state.”

The era of boarding schools has always been a dark spot on America’s history. This is a big step in the effort to find answers and uncover the real story behind boarding schools. This will allow Indigenous communities to receive the answers they have been seeking and it will help educate those unfamiliar with the story.

President Aaron Payment, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Indians, said, “I appreciate the Governor’s leadership and commitment here. Payment goes on to say, “We are entering an era of truth and reconciliation. It will be a difficult time that will require us to carefully examine austere history, but not for purposes of blame, but rather to identify what is needed to heal.

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