First Alaskans Institute President Testifies at Committee Hearing on Federal Internships


La Quen Náay Liz Medicine Crow, president of the First Alaskans Institute, during a monitoring hearing Wednesday, June 22, on the first volume of the Federal Internships Initiative investigative report. (Screenshot from the United States Indian Affairs Committee)

The US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a monitoring hearing Wednesday on the first volume of the Federal Boarding School Initiative’s investigative report. The report was made public in May. It detailed the initial findings of the Home Office investigation into Indian boarding schools.

There were 408 residential schools across the United States created to assimilate Native American children with “systematic methodologies of weaponization and identity alteration,” according to the report.

The Quen Náay Liz Medicine Crow, president of the First Alaskans Institute, testified at the hearing.

“I sit here in front of you as the granddaughter of a survivor. Her name was Mona Jackson. I wear her regalia here today because I wanted to take her with me. And I wanted to become a vessel for his voice,” Medicine Crow said.

Lisa Murkowski, seated in a chair during a committee hearing
Senator Lisa Murkowski during a Wednesday, June 22 oversight hearing on the first volume of the Federal Internships Initiative investigative report. (Screenshot from the United States Indian Affairs Committee)

During the hearing, Senator Lisa Murkowski asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland about resources for those trying to have the remains of loved ones repatriated to Alaska.

She said the report highlighted schools in 37 states, including 21 in Alaska.

“Twenty-one of these schools were located in Alaska. The sexual abuse, violence, malnutrition, solitary confinement, forced manual labor, untreated illnesses, unreported deaths and disappearances documented in this report make it very, very difficult to read. And we know that only scratches the surface, unfortunately, of what really happened,” Murkowski said.

The report included schools operated or funded by the United States government and omitted various programs operated by religious organizations. There were thousands of other assimilation programs like orphanages and day schools, according to the report.

Murkowski asked Medicine Crow if she thought the reach was too narrow.

“I don’t think we have an accurate number yet of the institutions that were in Alaska,” Medicine Crow said.

Medicine Crow brought up the story of Alaskan Native youth sent out of state to boarding schools and punitive asylums, like the Morningside Institute in the Lower 48.

“And so understanding this whole type of assimilation process ecosystem is really key. And I think a very strict and narrow definition will limit our ability to really know the whole story,” she said.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, proposed the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Healing Commission Policy Act in response to the committee’s work.

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