Oregon Delegation Raises Concerns Around Chemawa Following Alarming Allegations
In response to an investigative report by Oregon Public Broadcasting into the Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05), along with Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), called on the Department of Interior to look into claims alleged in the report.
The Members wrote, “we have concerns with: student safety and health, including an alarmingly high report of incidents in recent years requiring involvement from law enforcement; academic failings and high fluctuations in enrollment from semester to semester, as well as debilitating staff turnover rates and vacancies; the staff’s ability to report problems and concerns, and alleged retaliation against whistleblowers; overall transparency from the school with regards to rules and regulations for leadership and decision making.”
The five-part investigation began airing less than three weeks ago. The focus of the first three episodes included tragic student deaths, an apparent lack of support for students and poor academic results, and blowback against whistleblowers. The remaining episodes are expected to focus on allegations of nepotism and an overall concerning lack of transparency.
The Members continued, highlighting the necessity of the school saying, “We support the school's mission to provide a high school education alongside an education in tribal heritage and vocational skills to Native American youth. It is our mission to ensure the safety and prosperity of the students entrusted to the school.”
Chemawa, a Native American boarding school in Salem, OR that draws students from across the country and primarily from the Western states, has been part of Oregon’s community since 1880 and has called Salem home since 1885. The school was established to teach Native American youth a variety of trades including farming, animal husbandry and other vocational skills beneficial to reservation life and culture. Over the years, the school has progressed to provide a high school education to students of tribes, while maintaining an environment that promotes Native American identity and tribal heritage.
Read the full letter to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior here or below.
The Honorable John Tahsuda III
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Mr. Tahsuda:
We are writing in follow up to a recent series by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) highlighting Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon, and the significant allegations raised. OPB’s investigation highlights serious concerns with the management, alleged abuse, lack of transparency, and fraud at the Chemawa Indian School.
Specifically, we have concerns with:
We support the school's mission to provide a high school education alongside an education in tribal heritage and vocational skills to Native American youth. It is our mission to ensure the safety and prosperity of the students entrusted to the school. We thank you for your attention to these questions and our concerns, and look forward to a swift response.
Oregon’s Congressional Delegation Questions about the Chemawa Indian School