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Native American boarding school study preparing for a second RFP

Melissa Kiesewetter – MDCR Tribal Liaison/Native American Specialist, Michigan Department of Civil Rights
Michigan Center for Civic Education
Melissa Kiesewetter – MDCR Tribal Liaison/Native American Specialist, Michigan Department of Civil Rights

A state government study on Native American boarding schools could soon start taking applications for candidates to lead the research.  

The study would look at data involving abuse, deaths, and disappearances at boarding schools were Native American children had been forced to attend.  

“Funds must be used to locate, analyze, and preserve records and should work in concert, when appropriate, with the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. Funds must be used to interview boarding school survivors, their family members, and a broad cross-section of Michigan tribal representatives and experts specializing in duration, health, and children and families with the purpose of fully understanding the impacts of policies of Native American child removal,” language allocating the most recent round of funding for the project read.  

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is leading the project, working with the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.  

According to an update given Monday, an initial request for proposal, or RFP, only turned up one candidate. That candidate was later determined to be “a qualified candidate.”  

MDCR tribal liaison and Native American specialist Melissa Kiesewetter told the state Civil Rights Commission the next RFP will incorporate additional tribal input.  

“We want to take the opportunity we have right now after gathering their feedback and their comments and questions to maybe address any gaps that were in the first RFP document or to maybe elevate some of the critical points that we feel could help us identity the most viable candidate,” Kiesewetter said Monday.  

The project initially received $500,000 in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. It was supposed to be completed by January 30, 2024.  

But after facing setbacks in finding a candidate to facilitate the study, Kiesewetter said the governor’s office helped secure $750,000 more funds and another year to work on it.  

Kiesewetter said a new RFP should go out in the coming weeks.  

"Because the bulk of the work for the RFP is already done, we’re just looking at going in and tweaking a few things and again, addressing a few gaps, we expect to be able to have this RFP issued very shortly,” Kiesewetter said.