A first-of-its-kind investigation into the abuse of Native American youth by the U.S. government could help serve as a building block for creating a better, more equitable future for native communities moving forward.
That was one of the conclusions shared by Bryan Newland, assistant secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, when he visited Grand Valley on Oct. 27 to share updates on issues facing Indigenous youth in education.
Newland’s presentation focused on the past, present and future of schooling for Indigenous communities, spanning the creation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1860 to the publication of the landmark Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report in May of 2022.
“This (report) is the first time the United States Federal Government has held itself to account with honesty about what these schools were, and why they were put into place,” Newland said.
Newland is from the Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe) near Sault Ste. Marie, where he recently completed his tenure as tribal president. Prior to that, Newland served as chief judge of the Bay Mills Tribal Court.
The event, hosted by the GVSU Office of Multicultural affairs, was facilitated by Lin Bardwell & Levi Rickert, with opening remarks by Jesse Bernal, chief of staff to the president and vice president for Inclusion and Equity. Grand Valley’s Native American Advisory Council, created with the intention of supporting, elevating and advocating for Native American perspectives at Grand Valley and the first council of its kind in Michigan, was also present.
“Today’s program is just another example of our university trying to create a shared experience to deepen our learning,” Bernal said in his introduction. “But importantly, it’s also an opportunity for us to commit to doing more to elevate the voices of our Indigenous community and Native American communities.”