The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The pope needed to make another apology

Pope Francis during a meeting with Indigenous communities, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit, at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church in Maskwacis, Canada, on July 25. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

Regarding the July 30 news article “Still facing criticism, Pope Francis ends Canada trip in Nunavut”:

Pope Francis should be commended for his apology to the Indigenous people of Canada for their brutal and humiliating assimilation in Catholic-run boarding schools. However, he missed an opportunity to apologize to Native Americans.

According to an investigative report released in May 2022 by the U.S. Interior Department on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, from 1819 to 1969 the federal government operated more than 400 Indian boarding schools throughout the country. The Catholic Church received funding for many of them. The U.S. program served as the model for Canada’s. Both programs aimed to convert natives to, what they considered, “superior” Christians. Lasting devastating effects include widespread alcohol and drug abuse and deep-rooted mental health problems.

President Biden should build on the pope’s visit to Canada by offering a full and sincere apology to Native Americans for the U.S. boarding school program. This is long overdue. The Obama administration did offer an apology, but this was buried in a 2010 Defense Appropriation Bill. Mr. Biden’s apology should be along the lines of President Ronald Reagan’s to Japanese Americans in 1988 for internment during World War II and President Bill Clinton’s to Black Americans in 1997 for the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis. Mr. Biden’s apology would hold the federal government accountable for cultural genocide. It would also jump-start the healing process for Native Americans and provide a better understanding of the “story” of the United States.

Edward Drachman, Glen Allen, Va.