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IDNR to consider changes at Jubilee College after release of Federal Indian Boarding Schools report

The remaining building at the Jubilee College State Historic Site in rural Brimfield in Peoria County.
The remaining building at the Jubilee College State Historic Site in rural Brimfield in Peoria County.

Decades after Jubilee College ended operations as a frontier educational institution, it was operated as a federal Indian boarding school. That troubling part of the Peoria County historic landmark's legacy may soon receive official recognition.

A new report commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Interior sheds light on the locations where Indigenous children forcibly removed from their parents underwent cultural assimilation programs.

“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old—are heartbreaking and undeniable,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a statement. “We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal.”

The Jubilee College State Historic Site in rural Brimfield is set to receive updates to reflect the time it operated as the Homewood Boarding School from 1883 to as late as 1888.

It's known at least 12 Indigenous pupils were at the Jubilee College site in 1885.

“This is a distressing report, and clearly we have work to do to more
completely understand and interpret our own history, especially as it pertains to Indigenous people and other marginalized groups,” said Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, in a statement.

The IDNR oversees the Jubilee College State Historic Site.

“In the coming days and months, our agency will be reviewing how we tell the history of Jubilee College and determining how to move forward in a thoughtful and responsible way," said Callahan. "The oppression inflicted on Indigenous people in this country is a story that deserves to be told.”

Jubilee College was one of just two known Federal Indian Boarding School sites in Illinois. The other was the St. Mary's Training School for Boys in Des Plaines.

Jubilee College was founded in 1839 by Episcopal bishop Phliander Chase as one of the first higher educational institutions in Illinois. It ceased operation in 1862.

The remaining building on campus later became a national historic site.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.