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New map marks hundreds of boarding school locations

This screenshot shows boarding school locations on a portion of the NABS interactive map. (NABS)

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) recently released a new interactive digital map of Native American boarding school locations, including one in Florida. The purpose of the three-year project is to provide more information about the schools and further the efforts of Canada’s National Centre on Truth and Reconciliation and those of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI).

The map plots out the locations and basic information of 523 former boarding schools in the U.S. and more than 130 in Canada. Many of the schools – in particular those active between 1819 and 1969 – engaged in the forced and frequently brutal assimilation of Native American students, according to a 2022 report by the DOI.

The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based NABS, a nonprofit, supports boarding school survivors, their families and tribal communities with resources and opportunities to “heal the intergenerational trauma caused by Indian boarding schools.”

“I still get overwhelmed when I see the map. More than likely there’s cemeteries connected to these dots. There are graves next to these places. That’s what really saddens me when I look at it and think about that more,” Deidre Whiteman (Meskwaki/Dakota/Ojibwe/Hidatsa), director of research and education for NABS, said to Native News Online. “It’s a tool that’s going to be useful to all of our relatives and our communities and our families.”

NABS initial list in 2021 included 367 schools prior to a study by the DOI that bumped it up to 408. NABS staff later added another 115 through its research. The map represents NABS most recent data, but officials say the project is ongoing and the numbers will likely increase.

The map’s clickable entries provide a short history of each school, including its years of operation, other names the institution may have used, as well as funding and management information.

The Florida entry concerns the St. Augustine School for Apache Children at Fort Marion in St. Augustine. It was also known as the St. Augustine Day School and has been referred to as the Castillo de San Marcos. It was operated by the federal government from 1886 to 1887 for various uses, including the incarceration of members of the Seminole, Apache and Plains tribes.

NABS officials added that it has plans to launch another database – hopefully by November – with nearly 50,000 boarding school records to assist family members in researching their relatives and their stories.

“I’ve learned more over the years about certain family members and their stories. It’s been heartbreaking in that aspect to be continuously reminded about what our relatives went through,” Whitehead said to Native News Online. “It’s also been healing to navigate that there’s nothing wrong with me, there’s nothing wrong with my family. There were these systems that were pushed on us. But it’s just a good understanding that this was placed upon us.”

Meanwhile, the “Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S. Act” has been filed in the U.S. Senate. To date, neither chamber in Congress has passed it.

To access the NABS map, go to or click here.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at