Away From Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories is the updated installation of the long-running Boarding School exhibition at the Heard Museum. Since opening in 2000, Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience has become the Heard Museum’s most thematically powerful exhibition. Over the past two decades, interest in American Indian boarding schools and scholarship about the subject has increased. It is a story that must continue to be shared and one that is central to remembering the nation’s past and understanding its present.
Away From Home examines an important and often unknown period of American history. Beginning in the 1870s the U.S. government aimed to assimilate American Indians into “civilized” society by placing them in government-operated boarding schools. Children were taken from families and transported to far-away schools where all signs of “Indian-ness” were stripped away. Students were trained for servitude and many went for years without familial contact—events that still have an impact on Native communities today.
Much of the content in the current exhibition remains relevant and continues to offer a profound and powerful visitor experience. However, after two decades, the exhibition needed to be refreshed and augmented to tell this complex story. We will present new works of art, archival material, first-person interviews and interactive elements in an immersive setting to encourage visitors to have a personal and visceral connection to the topics explored.
Generations of students attended boarding schools before advocacy efforts—that included students and alumni—succeeded in reforming them, closing them, or offering other school choices. Boarding schools were designed to change American Indians, and they had many long-lasting impacts, but American Indians also changed the schools.
This exhibition is generously supported by The National Endowment for the Humanities, and in memory of Alice Brown Fleet (Creek/Seminole/Cherokee).