A look back at Arizona?s Indian boarding schools

February 08, 2012

In 1969, Indian boarding schools were labeled a national tragedy. Letitia Chambers, director of the Heard Museum, explains their significance in Arizona’s history and the Indian culture.

Chambers says boarding schools were started by United States government in the 1870s to destroy the Indian culture. Children were literally kidnapped from their homes, stripped of their possessions, forced to speak English and study menial tasks so they could work as servants and field laborers.

The impact of the schools is seen to this day. Language and culture disappeared with an entire generation of children ripped from their homes.

As the years went on and more alumni were able to influence government policies, the schools became less harsh. In the 1930s they began to teach real subjects, and in the 1950s boarding school became voluntary. As Arizona’s centennial approaches it’s important to remember the things the state accomplished, but it’s also important to remember the culture we’ve lost.