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Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories: Digital Resources

Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories

Digital Collection

Click on the e-books in the slideshow or the streaming videos below!


Cover: cartoon drawing of two animals

The Sky Watched

A collective memoir in poetry of an Ojibwe family and tribal community, from creation myth to this day, updated with new poems reaching from the moment of creation to the cry of a newborn. The Sky Watched gives poetic voice to Ojibwe family life. In English and Ojibwe, those assembled here voices of history, of memory and experience, of children and elders, Indian boarding school students, tribal storytellers, and the Manidoog, the unseen beings who surround our lives; come together to create a collective memoir in poetry as expansive and particular as the starry sky. Threaded throughout are the tribal traditions and knowledge that sustain a family and a people through hardship and turmoil, passed from generation to generation, coming together in the manifold power and beauty of the poet's voice.

Cover: several multi-colored quilting circles on a quilt


Between 1902 and 1934, the United States confined hundreds of adults and children from dozens of Native nations at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, a federal psychiatric hospital in South Dakota. But detention at the Indian Asylum, as families experienced it, was not the beginning or end of the story. For them, Canton Asylum was one of many places of imposed removal and confinement, including reservations, boarding schools, orphanages, and prison-hospitals. Despite the long reach of institutionalization for those forcibly held at the Asylum, the tenacity of relationships extended within and beyond institutional walls. In this accessible and innovative work, Susan Burch tells the story of the Indigenous people--families, communities, and nations, across generations to the present day--who have experienced the impact of this history. Drawing on oral history interviews, correspondence, material objects, and archival sources, Burch reframes the histories of institutionalized people and the places that held them. Committed expands the boundaries of Native American history, disability studies, and U.S. social and cultural history generally.

Cover: fade photograph of a Native American woman sitting in a chair

The Woman Who Loved Mankind

The oldest living Crow at the dawn of the twenty-first century, Lillian Bullshows Hogan (1905-2003) grew up on the Crow reservation in rural Montana. In The Woman Who Loved Mankind she enthralls readers with her own long and remarkable life and the stories of her parents, part of the last generation of Crow born to nomadic ways. As a child Hogan had a miniature teepee, a fast horse, and a medicine necklace of green beads; she learned traditional arts and food gathering from her mother and experienced the bitterness of Indian boarding school. She grew up to be a complex, hard-working Native woman who drove a car, maintained a bank account, and read the local English paper but spoke Crow as her first language, practiced beadwork, tanned hides, honored clan relatives in generous giveaways, and often visited the last of the old chiefs and berdaches with her family. She married in the traditional Crow way and was a proud member of the Tobacco and Sacred Pipe societies but was also a devoted Christian who helped establish the Church of God on her reservation.

Cover: pencil drawing of Indians in front of a teepee

Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press

Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press is the first comprehensive collection of writings by students and well-known Native American authors who published in boarding school newspapers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Students used their acquired literacy in English along with more concrete tools that the boarding schools made available, such as printing technology, to create identities for themselves as editors and writers. In these roles they sought to challenge Native American stereotypes and share issues of importance to their communities.  Writings by Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa), Charles Eastman, and Luther Standing Bear are paired with the works of lesser-known writers to reveal parallels and points of contrast between students and generations. Drawing works primarily from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (Pennsylvania), the Hampton Institute (Virginia), and the Seneca Indian School (Oklahoma), Jacqueline Emery illustrates how the boarding school presses were used for numerous and competing purposes.

Cover: black and white photo of two rows of students taking a class picture

Boarding School Seasons

Boarding School Seasons offers a revealing look at the strong emotional history of Indian boarding school experiences in the first half of the twentieth century. At the heart of this book are the hundreds of letters written by parents, children, and school officials at Haskell Institute in Kansas and the Flandreau School in South Dakota. These revealing letters show how profoundly entire families were affected by their experiences. Children, who often attended schools at great distances from their communities, suffered from homesickness, and their parents from loneliness. Parents worried continually about the emotional and physical health and the academic progress of their children. Families clashed repeatedly with school officials over rampant illnesses and deplorable living conditions and devised strategies to circumvent severely limiting visitation rules.

Cover: three Native American men

To Show What an Indian Can Do

To Show What an Indian Can Do explores the history of sports programs at Native American boarding schools and, drawing on the recollections of former students, describes the importance of competitive sport in their lives. John Bloom focuses on the students who did not typically go on to greater athletic glory but who found in sports something otherwise denied them at boarding school: a sense of community, accomplishment, and dignity.

Cover: several rows of Native American children

Carlisle Indian Industrial School

The Carlisle Indian School (1879-1918) was an audacious educational experiment. Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt, the school's founder and first superintendent, persuaded the federal government that training Native children to accept the white man's ways and values would be more efficient than fighting deadly battles. The result was that the last Indian war would be waged against Native children in the classroom. More than 8,500 children from virtually every Native nation in the United States were taken from their homes and transported to Pennsylvania. Carlisle provided a blueprint for the federal Indian school system that was established across the United States and also served as a model for many residential schools in Canada. The Carlisle experiment initiated patterns of dislocation and rupture far deeper and more profound and enduring than its founder and supporters ever grasped.

Cover: photgraph of a Native American men and women's choir

Boarding School Voices

Boarding School Voices is both an anthology of mostly unpublished writing by former students of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and a study of that writing. The boarding schools' ethnocidal practices have become a metaphor for the worst evils of colonialism, a specifiable source for the ills that beset Native communities today. But the fuller story is one not only of suffering and pain, loss and abjection, but also of ingenious agency, creative syntheses, and unimagined adaptations. Although tragic for many students, for others the Carlisle experience led to positive outcomes in their lives. Some published short pieces in the Carlisle newspapers and others sent letters and photos to the school over the years. Arnold Krupat transcribes selections from the letters of these former students literally and unedited, emphasizing their evocative language and what they tell of themselves and their home communities, and the perspectives they offer on a wider American world. Their sense of themselves and their worldview provide detailed insights into what was abstractly and vaguely referred to as "the Indian question." These former students were the oxymoron Carlisle superintendent Richard Henry Pratt could not imagine and never comprehended: they were Carlisle Indians.  

Cover: groups of Native Americans sitting outside a building

Assimilation, Resilience, and Survival

Assimilation, Resilience, and Survival illustrates how settler colonialism propelled U.S. government programs designed to assimilate generations of Native children at the Stewart Indian School (1890-1980). The school opened in Carson City, Nevada, in 1890 and embraced its mission to destroy the connections between Native children and their lands, isolate them from their families, and divorce them from their cultures and traditions. Newly enrolled students were separated from their families, had their appearances altered, and were forced to speak only English. However, as Samantha M. Williams uncovers, numerous Indigenous students and their families subverted school rules, and tensions arose between federal officials and the local authorities charged with implementing boarding school policies. The first book on the history of the Stewart Indian School, Assimilation, Resilience, and Survival reveals the experiences of generations of Stewart School alumni and their families, often in their own words. Williams demonstrates how Indigenous experiences at the school changed over time and connects these changes with Native American activism and variations in federal policy. Williams's research uncovers numerous instances of abuse at Stewart, and Assimilation, Resilience, and Survival addresses both the trauma of the boarding school experience and the resilience of generations of students who persevered there under the most challenging of circumstances.  

Frontier Blood

The descendants of Elder John Parker were a strange and often brilliant family who may have changed the course of Texas and Western history. Their obsession with religion and their desire for land took them from Virginia to Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, and finally Texas. From their midst came Cynthia Ann, taken captive by Comanches as a young girl and recaptured as an adult to live in grief among her birth family until she died. From their line too came her son, Quanah Parker, last of the great Comanche war chiefs--and first of their great peace leaders. Although the broad outlines of the stories of Cynthia Ann and Quanah are familiar, Jo Ella Powell Exley adds a new dimension by placing them in the context of the stubborn, strong, contentious Parker clan, who lived near and dealt with restive Indians across successive frontiers until history finally brought them to Texas, where their fate changed.

Boarding School Stories of Survival

For over a hundred years, the U.S. government used education as a tool to assimilate Native American children into American Society-by systematically erasing their history, culture, and language. (2:23 minutes)

For the nearly two million Native Americans, representing 500 Indian nations, life in the U.S. today is a frustrating struggle to retain their ancient ways while functioning in the modern world, to carve out an identity in an overwhelmingly non-Indian culture. (49:30 minutes)

"This one hour documentary invites the viewers into the lives of contemporary Native American role models living in the U.S. Midwest. The tragic history of Native Americans is considered many to be our 'American Holocaust.'  This can be seen in the history of the Boarding School Era, during which time Native children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed into boarding schools.  Interviewees explain how this past trauma continues to negatively impact their emotional and physical health today and contribute to urgent social problems." (57 minutes)

Native Silence is a solemn account of the legacy of forced adoption on Native American children, torn from their tribal communities and placed in foster care and boarding schools.  (23 minutes)

Additional Streaming Videos or Series

This widely acclaimed documentary chronicles the Crow Indians' century-long battle for survival. In spite of every effort by the U.S. government to assimilate the people and acquire their tribal land, the Crows have persisted in keeping their language, family, and culture intact. They continue to live on their ancestors' land in what is now southeastern Montana, but like tribes everywhere, the Crows' future is not assured. Deftly interweaving interviews, fascinating archival footage, intimate scenes of never-before-filmed ceremonies, and stunning views of the Crows' Montana homeland, “Contrary Warriors" brings the past into the present by focusing on the life of Robert Yellowtail, a 97-year-old tribal leader whose courage and brilliance saved Crow lands and traditions. 

Buried Stories reveals the life story of a Native American (Ohlone/Esselen) Ella Rodriguez, who, in her seventies, still resents that she was taken from her rural California home at age thirteen and sent to an Indian boarding school. After running away from the school and becoming ensnared in the juvenile justice system, she was forced into marriage by a parole officer at eighteen, then labored as a migrant worker. (34min)

Discover the fascinating ways in which the U.S. was profoundly affected by the native cultures that were here thousands of years before the Europeans.  Explore the ways in which our government, economy, agriculture, medicine, language & legal system are still influenced by Native American contributions. (26 minutes)

"In 1950, sportswriters from across the United States voted on who they thought was the greatest American athlete of the century but one you might not have heard of shone the brightest: the incomparable Jim Thorpe.  Football, baseball, basketball player-he was talented beyond his years and the first Native American to achieve Olympic Gold glory!" (2 minutes)