Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories | Heard Museum

Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories

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 made possible by a grant by The National Endowment for the Humanities and an anonymous donor.

What is education?

Speaker: Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, PhD (Hopi) is Professor in the American Indian Studies Program and Department of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an NEH advisor on the Boarding School exhibition update.

Learn more

Continue your Away from Home journey with these resources:

Learn about laws and legal rights for Native Americans
NCAI (National Congress of American Indians)
NARF (Native American Rights Fund)

Find out about healing and reconciliation
The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Learn locally
Visit Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center

Make connections with visits to other Indian School sites and museums
Carlisle Indian School
Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center
Genoa Indian School Interpretive Center
Haskell Cultural Center and Museum
Sherman Indian Museum
Stewart Indian School
Follow NEH on the Road

Inform yourself about organizations concerned about American Indian childhood development and education
National Indian Education Association
National Indian Child Welfare Association
American Indian Higher Education Consortium

Heard Museum Billy Jane Baguley Library and Archives
Bibliography for Away from Home

Educator resources such as a curriculum and a book list are located here.
School tours are available here.

This exhibition is generously supported by: