Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin invites the public to view “Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories,” an exhibit exploring off-reservation boarding schools through a collection of stories. The exhibit opens June 16 and will run through August 12. “Away from Home” contains stories of resilience, revitalization, agency and honor.
Beginning in the 1870s, the US government attempted to educate and assimilate American Indians by placing children—of all ages, from thousands of homes and hundreds of diverse tribes—in distant, residential boarding schools. Many were forcibly taken from their families and communities, and even forbidden to speak their own language amongst themselves. Students were trained for domestic work and trade in a highly regimented environment until the 1930s. Many children went years without familial contact, and these events had a lasting, generational impact.
Native Americans responded to the often tragic boarding school experience in complex and nuanced ways. Stories of student resistance, accommodation, creative resolve, devoted participation, escape, and faith in one’s self and heritage speak individually across eras. Some families, faced with increasingly scarce resources due to land dispossession and a diminished way of life at home, sent their children to boarding schools as a refuge from these realities.