Image source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Native American children at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1901.” Accessed via

Indian Boarding Schools

From 1819 to 1969, the U.S. federal government oversaw 408 Indian boarding schools across 37 states as part of the Civilization Fund Act. Between these 150 years, the purpose of the boarding schools was to culturally assimilate American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children by “forcibly removing them from their families, communities, languages, religions and cultural beliefs” (1). The goal of these boarding schools was to eradicate traditional Indigenous ways of life and substitute them with American culture. The boarding schools discouraged, and even banned, children from practicing their cultures, traditions, and languages. Hundreds of thousands of indigenous children were removed from their homes into these educational institutions to then suffer physical, sexual, cultural, and spiritual abuse and neglect.

Separated from their families and forced to surrender their native languages, religious or spiritual values, and cultural customs, the children regularly experienced loneliness and despair with their new Anglo-American names, clothes, and haircuts. Schools also enforced manual labor upon children for half of the school day. Many children also became sick and malnourished from unsanitary, conditions and overcrowded conditions. Some died trying to escape. As years passed, families hid their children because the police would extract youths from their homes. Thousands of children that did attend the Federal Indian boarding schools never returned home, causing intergenerational trauma.

In May 2022, in order to shed light on the cultural genocide committed in the boarding schools, the U.S. Department of the Interior published the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report (2). This first volume of the report details the heinous stories behind the injustices seen at the Federal Indian boarding schools on a daily basis. The investigation reports they have identified marked and unmarked burial sites of children’s remains across 53 different Federal Indian boarding schools. So far, there are over 500 accounted child deaths, and the Interior Department emphasized the number would increase (2).

Nevada has three boarding schools: The Stewart Indian School in Carson City, Pyramid Lake Boarding and Day School in Nixon, and Western Shoshone Boarding School in Owyhee (3). On January 13, 2020, the Steward Indian School became a cultural center and museum, honoring the children that attended Steward and assisting families to heal. Check out the Cultural Center and Museum here:

View the full Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report.

To raise awareness of the Indian Boarding Schools and provide support to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian survivors and their families, visit these websites:

  1. Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative | U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed March 15, 2023.
  2. Department of the Interior U. Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Bryan Newland.; 2022.
  3. Governor Sisolak addresses report on Indian Boarding School Initiative | News | Accessed March 15, 2023.
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