Log In

Reset Password
Regional News

Bill would reauthorize Colorado’s Indian boarding school research program

Historical society would receive $1 million in funding to conduct research and tribal consultations
Native American Ute children walk to the Southern Ute Agency school dining hall near Ignacio. (Courtesy of Denver Public Library)

State lawmakers are proposing to continue research into the legacy of federal boarding schools where Native American children were abused and forced to abandon their culture.

A new bill would allocate an additional $1 million from Colorado’s budget to reauthorize the federal Indian boarding school research program for the next three years.

The state’s initial research program was signed into law two years ago to, in the words of the new bill, “conduct research regarding the physical abuse and deaths that occurred at federal Indian boarding schools in Colorado.” It required History Colorado, in consultation with the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs as well as the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes to develop recommendations to better understand the abuse that occurred and to support healing in tribal communities.

The first effort had a budget of just over $600,000 and culminated in a report that identified nine institutions that attempted to forcibly assimilate Native children, both from tribes in Colorado and from neighboring states.

In addition to continuing that research, this year’s bill would allow officials to implement the recommendations developed in the initial report.

Those recommendations include:

  • The collection of oral histories of survivors that highlight Indigenous narratives.
  • Develop further recommendations to the departments of education and higher education to support education for Native communities.
  • Develop further recommendations to the Department of Human Services and other state agencies on how to address the health, mental health, economic, and other impacts of the boarding school system.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and state Sens. Jeff Bridges, a Democrat, and Cleave Simpson, a Republican. It is slated to get a first hearing in the House Education Committee on April 18.

To read more stories from Colorado Public Radio, visit www.cpr.org.