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Aug. 12, 2022

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Feds looking at finances of Native American boarding school in Oregon

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — One of only a few boarding schools for Native American students still run directly by the federal government in Oregon is undergoing a close look at the school’s finances by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General.

The office confirmed last month in an email to Oregon Public Broadcasting that it had “initiated an audit of the financial management and financial oversight of the Chemawa Indian School.”

The audit came in response to Democratic U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, who requested the inquiry after they felt hindered in efforts to look into alleged problems at the school.

“These allegations have been difficult to evaluate due to the school’s opaque financial practices. Our offices have repeatedly asked school officials for basic financial data. To date, we have not received a satisfactory response to those requests,” the senators said in a letter sent in October.

Chemawa is the federal government’s oldest, continuously operating boarding school for Native American children in the country. It initially opened in Forest Grove in 1880, before moving a few years later to a hillside at the north end of Salem.

A scathing federal report released last month by the U.S. Department of the Interior — the agency that opened and operated those schools — found practices at those campuses and at similar schools across the country were horrific and traumatic.

Hundreds students died at the schools, including at the campuses in Forest Grove and Salem.

Problems remain at schools like Chemawa, as investigations by OPB and government agencies have shown in recent years.

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