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'A Legacy Of Historical Trauma': How Native Traditions Survived The Phoenix Indian School

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - 12:48pm

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Children who attended Phoenix Indian School in the 1950s
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Children who attended Phoenix Indian School in the 1950s. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, there were more than 50 of these boarding schools in Arizona.

Last month, Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland announced the creation of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.

It’s an effort to investigate the historical records of hundreds of boarding schools for Native American children and to learn about incidents of abuse and unreported deaths that took place at the government-managed institutions over the last two centuries.

It comes alongside a burgeoning repatriation movement as the remains of potentially thousands of unnamed Indigenous children are being discovered at boarding schools here and in Canada.

In the early 1800s, the government authorized officials to remove Indigenous children from their families and tribes to be "civilized" — assimilated into American culture by stripping them of their tribal identities.

The Phoenix Indian School was one of these institutions. It opened in 1891.

Efforts there to assimilate students were curtailed in the 1920s, but the school continued to operate until 1990, when it was closed due to reduced enrollment.

Patty Talahongva is a member of the Hopi tribe and the executive producer of Indian Country Today's daily news broadcast here in Phoenix; she attended the Phoenix Indian School in the late 1970s.

The Show spoke with her more about her own experience there and the legacy of these troubled institutions.

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