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CHEMAWA. At 112 years the oldest continuously operating boarding school in the United States. IDEA FOR SCHOOLS. "In 1875, Captain Richard Pratt escorted 72 Indian warriors suspected of murdering white settlers to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida.

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  • At 112 years the oldest continuously operating boarding school in the United States
idea for schools
  • "In 1875, Captain Richard Pratt escorted 72 Indian warriors suspected of murdering white settlers to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida.
  • Once there, Pratt began an ambitious experiment which involved teaching the Indians to read and write English, putting them in uniforms and drilling them like soldiers.
  • "Kill the Indian and save the man," was Pratt's motto."
  • From Colonial times, various forms of schooling for Native Americans were instituted by Christian missionaries.
  • They brought Bible stories and elementary education to Indian communities and erected church schools nearby.
  • Federal treaties included promises to build schools as partial compensation for ceded lands, some tribes initially rejected the offer.
  • It was not until reservations were established that an organized federal school system for Native Americans was formed.
  • In the 1870's the U. S. Government authorized a school for Indian children in the Northwest.
  • The official philosophy at that time was to integrate the Indian population into general society through education.
  • Two Indian schools were in operation on the East Coast.
  • A site was chosen at Forest Grove, to be administered by Pacific University.
  • Lt. Melville Wilkinson of the U.S. Army was in charge of the project.
  • $5,000 was provided to start the school.
  • Lt. Wilkinson, with the help of eight Puyullap Indian boys began construction of the buildings In 1880.
  • As the national economy drove congressional decisions, appropriations designated for the Indian Services ultimately defined the quality and quantity of Native education.
  • Day schools and on- and off-reservation boarding schools were constructed, but they rarely met the needs of Indian communities.
  • The first mission and manual labor school for Oregon Indians was constructed by Methodist missionary Jason Lee in 1835 at Mission Bottom on the east side of the Willamette River, near present-day Chemawa.
  • Not a boarding school per se, historical records during the mission school's brief existence suggest students lived and worked on the farm.
  • An influx of white settlers and death of local Indian population, primarily from disease, the school failed and in 1841 was relocated to Chemeketa on Mill Creek.
  • Renamed the Indian Manual Training School, it became the Oregon Institute in 1844; the legislature granted the school a charter in 1853 as Willamette University.
the move
  • Several factors lead to the search for a new site for the school:
  • Local resistance to the school
  • A much larger area of land was needed for teaching farming skills
  • The girls' dormitory burned in 1884. Considered were the towns of McMinnville, Newberg, and Salem.
  • Salem was chosen when the city offered 171 partially-cleared acres served by a spur of the main railroad through the Willamette Valley.
move part ii
  • In 1885 the school moved to a site five miles north of Salem
  • Construction of buildings began immediately
  • The first buildings were of wood construction and were later razed to make way for more permanent brick structures.
early classes
  • The first graduating class completed the sixth grade in 1886. Subsequently, courses were added through the tenth grade.
  • In 1900 Chemawa had 453 students, the largest of its kind in Oregon and a federal budget of $57,182.62.
  • The emphasis was on vocational training.
  • Farming as one of the major areas of training. Dairying, stock raising and other farm methods provided food which was preserved by the students for later use.
  • A school library provided reading material and religious training was provided
  • There was a Roman Catholic church on campus.
  • Students could participate in basketball, baseball, and football.
  • There were 690 pupils enrolled with 175 Alaskan children.
  • There were 70 buildings on the 40-acre campus.
  • The land area of the school had increased to 426 acres.
  • Some of the land had been purchased by Indian students and given to the school as a token of their gratitude
  • Most of the money for this land was earned by picking hops.
  • The staff at that time numbered seventy..
  • This was the peak enrollment at Chemawa; almost 1,000 students were enrolled.
  • The 11th and 12th grades were added to the curriculum and all grades below the 6th were dropped.
  • In 1927 Chemawa became a fully accredited high school.
1930 s
  • In an economy move the school was threatened with closure
  • The efforts of Interested Journalists and Oregon's Congressional delegation, it remained open with 300 students.
  • This marked a major change in policy and the school never regained its former number of students.
  • Indian children were encouraged to attend local schools whenever possible.
  • The school farm of over 300 acres was an important training site for the vocationally-oriented program.
1940 s and 50 s
1940’s and 50’s
  • A special program for Navajo children expanded and northwest Indian children were schooled elsewhere.
  • Another change of policy brought back Northwest students, particularly from Alaska.
  • With the move to a new campus on adjacent land, most of the old brick structures were destroyed
  • Only one building remains on the old Chemawa campus which has been declared eligible for the National Register.

Beginning of the 21st century, Chemawa was the only boarding school that remained in Oregon

  • An accredited high school that serves Native American and Alaska Native students, is the oldest continuously operated off-reservation boarding school in the United States.
1850 s
  • Treaties submitted to Congress by Oregon and Washington Indian Commissioners Joel Palmer and Isaac Stevens promised to provide teachers and schools to tribes.
  • The 1855 treaty with the Willamette Valley Indians obligated the federal government to establish manual labor schools among the Molallas, Umpquas, and Kalapuyas
  • These included the construction of buildings and the provision of subsistence for the students.
early schools
Early Schools
  • As early as 1859, boarding schools were established on reservations in Washington and Oregon, the first at Fort Simcoe on the Yakama Reservation in Washington.
  • In 1874, a boarding school was built at Warm Springs in Oregon, and others were later constructed at Siletz, Grand Ronde, Klamath, and Umatilla.
  • In 1885, the annual report to the secretary of the Interior by Indian Commissioner John H. Oberly showed that the government had utterly failed in its obligation to educate Indian children. Few reservation schools had ever been built, and those that had were severely lacking.
  • In 1879, the secretary of the Interior authorized two federal off-reservation boarding schools.
  • That fall, the Carlisle Indian School opened in Pennsylvania
  • in February 1880, the Forest Grove Indian Industrial and Training School opened on the grounds of Pacific University in Oregon.
  • The first superintendent at the Forest Grove school was Lt. Melville C. Wilkinson, a veteran of the Civil War and formerly an aide-de-camp to Gen. Oliver Otis Howard.
  • In 1884, the institution, staff, and student body were moved to a farm site along the railroad north of Salem, where more land was available.
  • The post office there had been named Chemawa after the local band of Kalapuya Indians.
  • The Salem Indian Industrial and Training School was briefly called the Harrison Institute, but eventually it became known simply as Chemawa.
early students
  • Youth from WA, OR, ID, and AK. were the earliest to attend the school at Forest Grove and Salem.
  • Students earned money that was used to purchase acreage for the institution, and they participated in the construction of both campuses.
  • As the school expanded, younger and older students were recruited, and at times entire families were enrolled.
  • Agents from reservations in all the western states and missionaries in Alaska sent children—often orphans—to Chemawa, and many children were separated from their families and forced to attend the school.
  • Much of the curriculum of the early federal Indian boarding schools was focused on the destruction of Native languages and cultures and the enforcement of assimilation policies, and there is substantial documentation revealing the tragic consequences of this particular form of education on students, tribes, and communities.
during the 1880 s
  • Congressional appropriations increased
  • Over the next three decades, the number of federally operated Indian schools in the United States rose from 160 to 383
  • These included day and boarding schools and contract and mission schools.
decrease of schools
Decrease of Schools
  • Transportation systems improved and public education became more accessible in the early twentieth century
  • Many of the reservation schools were closed
  • Indian students were sent to Chemawa or to public schools.
early 20 th century
  • Chemawa and some of the other federal boarding schools developed into nearly self-supporting communities and provided valuable training opportunities in the industrial arts and other fields.
  • Recognizing the possible benefits for their children, some Native families chose to send their children to the boarding schools, beginning a tradition that has lasted for generations.
1950 s
  • Many tribes in Oregon and Washington lost federal recognition
  • Some successfully fought for restoration and began to work toward the realization of tribal sovereignty.
  • Tribal and intertribal Indian education associations were formed.
  • Over the past few decades, many new tribal schools and colleges have been constructed throughout the country, which are managed in whole or in part by the tribes.
new schools cont
  • At these schools and at Chemawa, contemporary paradigms for Indian education are still expanding and strive to incorporate both the academic and technological skills with cultural values and traditions.
  • At the five remaining boarding schools still operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, students are now encouraged to explore and enhance their understanding of Indian history and their own individual tribal cultures and traditions.
school overview
  • High school Grades 9 - 12
  • Marion County, OR
  • Total Students 502
  • 45 Male / % 55% Female
by grade
  • Grade 9 - 126 students
  • Grade 10 - 162 students
  • Grade 11 - 119 students
  • Grade 12 - 95 students
  • Wilson, National Historic Register Nomination, 1992
  • Marion County Historical Society Quarterly, 1959
  • The Oregon Historical- Encyclopedia Project- Indian Boarding Schools- Cary Collins, SuAnn M. Reddick

Photograph of an Indian Training School in Forest Grove in 1882.

Oreg. Hist. Soc. Research Lib., OrHi 23784

girls loom weaving at the chemawa indian school in 1937 oreg hist soc research lib bb003867
Girls loom weaving at the Chemawa Indian School in 1937.Oreg. Hist. Soc. Research Lib., bb003867
The dining hall at Phoenix Indian School was an important stage for learning Anglo ways and breaking traditional ones. ca. 1904