Beginning in the 1870s, the US government attempted to educate and assimilate American Indians into “civilized” society by placing children—of all ages, from thousands of homes and hundreds of diverse tribes—in distant, residential boarding schools. Many were forcibly taken from their families and communities and stripped of all signs of “Indianness,” even forbidden to speak their own language amongst themselves. Up until the 1930s, students were trained for domestic work and trade in a highly regimented environment. Many children went years without familial contact, and these events had a lasting, generational impact.
This exhibition explores off-reservation boarding schools in its kaleidoscope of voices. Visitors will explore compelling photographs, artwork, interviews, interactive timelines, and immersive environments, including classroom and dormitory settings. Objects such as a period barber chair and a young Seminole girl’s skirt, as well as reproduction elements poignantly illuminate first-person accounts. Stories of tragedy and familial love and friendships intersect. Experiences of gaining things useful and beautiful out of education, despite a formidable, fifty-year agenda that mostly maligned Native American capabilities, call us closer; each trial, each turning of power seeded in human survival, strengthening Indigenous identity.
For more information on the exhibition and parking details please click here.
The Tomaquag Museum provides many free programs and activities as well as some that have a fee. The Tomaquag Museum is supported in part by a RI Culture, Humanities and Arts Recovery Grant (RICHARG). This funding has been provided to the Humanities Council by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and to RISCA by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act.