Tribes want last of Indian boarding school lands

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Sixteen tribes from South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska want the federal government to turn over to tribal care the three parcels of land where an American Indian boarding school sat in the late 1800s.

Tribal members petitioned the government to release the roughly 165 acres of land to federal tribal trust, the Rapid City Journal ( ) reported Sunday. The parcels are considered spiritual land guaranteed to the Sioux Nation under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

"We're just waiting for the government, and as you know, that takes time," said Gay Kingman, the executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association, which also backs the petition.

The boarding school opened its doors in 1898 under federal assimilation policies. It was one of dozens of government-operated schools where students were forced to speak English and were punished when they were caught speaking in their native tongues.

Children from tribes in the Northern Plains were funneled into roughly 1,200 acres dedicated by the federal government to the Rapid City Indian Boarding School. A 1928 government-commissioned report found that Indian children at boarding schools were severely punished, malnourished, overworked and poorly educated. The failed school closed in 1933, and the land eventually was dissolved into the lots that remain under tax-free federal trust.

Only the Sioux San Hospital, an original structure of the facility, continued to operate when the school was shuttered, the newspaper reported.

Kingman said the hospital would remain under control of the Indian Health Service. She added that the hospital has been a focal point for the Native American community.

"All of the tribes had people who attended the boarding school," Kingman said. "I can't say enough about what we're trying to do here. The Sioux San Hospital itself means so much to our people."

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