At a moment when we are confronting structural racism and intergenerational trauma in America, many in philanthropy are trying to better understand why so many of us call for healing-centered approaches to our work. They could start the process of understanding by learning the horrific history of these boarding schools, which were part of government-sanctioned efforts in the United States and Canada to extinguish our culture. These schools left long-term emotional and physical scars on generations of Indigenous families — the very definition of generational trauma.

Philanthropy can play an important role in healing the communities that carry the legacy of these schools. First, don’t look away from this painful history. Teach yourself all you can about the boarding schools. And be sure to include our story as you and your colleagues educate yourselves about the terrible history of police violence against Black and brown people in the United States.

Second, invest in culture-centered programming such as the Remembering the Children memorial for the Rapid City Indian Boarding School in South Dakota and many similar efforts across the country. Because these schools were designed to dismantle our culture, we know that reclaiming that culture is the path to healing. It’s also important to invest in programs directly focused on addressing the trauma experienced by former students of these schools and their families. A great resource is the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, which provides information about local and national programs, movements, and support services.

Finally, to better understand where philanthropic dollars are being invested and where they are needed, check out Investing in Native Communities — a project developed by my organization, Native Americans in Philanthropy, and Candid.

So many of our children were lost to this system over generations. I’m grateful my great grandfather wasn’t one of them, but he lost a lot of himself and his community as a survivor. It’s time to confront this history, reconcile with it, and invest in healing our people.

Read the full article about the role of philanthropy in addressing Native American boarding schools by Erik Stegman at Native Americans in Philanthropy.