The 99-year history of the Phoenix Indian School and recent efforts to renovate a building used to educate American Indians there are presented in an exhibit opening Friday, Sept. 25, at Phoenix’s Heritage Square. The Phoenix Indian School Legacy Project exhibit includes photographs and historic objects from the Heard Museum’s collection.
The Heard is part of a partnership with Heritage Square and Native American Connections, Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Phoenix and the Phoenix Indian Center in presenting the exhibit, open to the public Sept. 25 through Dec. 31 in the Heritage Gallery at Heritage Square’s historic 1901 Stevens-Haustgen House, 113 N. Sixth St., Phoenix.
Visitors to the two-room bungalow will find photographs, selected from the Heard’s collection in its Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives, which were taken throughout the history of the former school. The school, which opened in 1891, graduated its last class in 1990. Also on display from the Heard are its education panel exhibit on the Phoenix Indian School, a PIS letter sweater and several plaques and trophies, including a plaque from Peterson Zah, former chair of the Navajo Nation.
Native American Connections, Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Phoenix and the Phoenix Indian Center are collaborating to transform the Music Building at the former school – now Steele Indian School Park at Third Street and Indian School Road – into a community center.
The Phoenix Indian School was one of 12 original federal Indian schools created in the late 19th century. Like other such schools that ultimately opened in dozens more places throughout the country, the Phoenix school’s purpose was to train American Indians in industrial and manual labor. Federal officials forced students from their homes to attend them, isolating them from their families and tribes. Over the decades, attendance ultimately became voluntary and the course of instruction broadened to include a variety of academic subjects.
Since 2000, the Heard has presented an ongoing exhibit: Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience, which documents the growth and effect of these schools, several of which still exist today.
Visitors may view the exhibit at the Stevens-Haustgen House from Sept. 25 to Dec. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, except Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26), Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (Dec. 24-25), when Heritage Square is closed. Admission to the Indian School exhibit is free; Heritage Square charges admission to tour its Rosson House Museum.
Here is more information about the Phoenix Indian School Legacy Project exhibit.