Introduction – Tribal Boarding School Toolkit for Healing

Summary

The purpose of this toolkit is to provide those who work in AI/AN communities with information, resources, and suggested activities for talking about and healing the generational traumatic impacts boarding schools have had on AI/AN individuals, families, and communities. In January 2023, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) and Indian Health Services (IHS) contracted with Kauffman and Associates, Inc. (KAI) to develop an electronic toolkit for teachers, public health professionals, mental health professionals, tribal administrators, and public safety professionals. The toolkit is intended to be a brief, reader-friendly resource with information on the historical trauma resulting from Indian boarding schools in the United States. This team conducted a literature review, spoke to boarding school survivors and descendants, consulted with individuals and organizations working in the field of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) healing and resilience, and collaborated with educators to develop this toolkit.

Acknowledgement

The authors of this toolkit acknowledge and honor the resilience and strength of the U.S. Indian boarding school students, survivors, and their descendants. The enduring trauma inflicted by forced assimilation policies is a painful chapter in American history, and we stand in solidarity with those who have carried the weight of this legacy for generations. To the survivors and their families, your courage in sharing your stories and seeking healing is a testament to your indomitable spirit. We recognize the profound intergenerational trauma that has been passed down and the continual impact is has had on AI/AN communities.

We also extend our gratitude to those who will use this toolkit—the dedicated administrators, public officials, health care providers, and educators who work tirelessly to provide support, healing, and education to those affected by this historical injustice. Your commitment to addressing the complex physical, emotional, and cultural wounds caused by these policies is commendable. In community and ceremony, we can strive for healing, reclamation, and revitalization of AI/AN cultures and traditions these policies tried to extinguish.

Pamela End of Horn, DSW, National Suicide Prevention Consultant – IHS

Colbie Caughlan, MPH, Project Director – NPAIHB

Julia Keefe, MM, Project Manager – KAI

Robin Harwick, PhD., Senior Researcher – KAI

Aaron Payment, PhD., Subject Mater Expert – KAI

Jane Middleton Moz. MS, Consultant

Patricia Whitefoot, MEd., Consultant

John Bird, MEd., Expert Advisor

Gary Nuemann, CPS, Expert Advisor

Eric Buffalohead, PhD., Expert Advisor

Joni Buffalohead, PhD., Expert Advisor

Anna Whiting-Sorrell, MPA, Expert Advisor

Barbara Aragon, MSW, Expert Advisor

JoAnn Kauffman, MPH, Expert Advisor

Helen Goodteacher, MA, Artist of the Cover

Dolores Jimerson, LCSW, ADS

Aurora Martinez Sqwemey7ileshewó:t, MHA

We would like to acknowledge the complexity of this work and the vulnerability of those who chose to participate in the creation of this toolkit. They invested not only their professional insights but their personal family stories, and without their profound commitment to highlighting the truth of the boarding school experience and its impacts, this toolkit would not have been created.