Away from Home:
American Indian Boarding School Stories

ON VIEW
January 28 – March 16, 2022

Special exhibitions are included with museum admission.

Exhibition Overview

Beginning in the late 19th century and into the 20th century, the United States government aimed to eradicate Native American cultures through forced assimilation of children via federally operated, off-reservation boarding schools. Thousands of children were removed from their families and communities, and were stripped of their languages, religious practices, and community connections. They were trained for domestic labor and forced to work in strict regulated environments. Students sometimes went years without familial contact, which caused lasting, multi-generational impact.

Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories, on view at The James Museum January 28 through March 16, shares the experiences of some of those students who were affected. Historical photographs, objects, interactive timelines, and interviews tell individual stories of pain, heartbreak, and also resilience. While the Indian boarding school system caused generational trauma, Native American tribes today are working to heal, reclaim, and share their cultures and this hidden chapter in American history.

Native Americans responded to the boarding school experience in complex and nuanced ways. Stories of student resistance, accommodation, creative resolve, devoted participation, escape, and faith in one’s self and heritage speak individually across eras. Boarding schools were designed to remake American Indians but it was American Indians who eventually changed the schools. After graduation, some students became involved in tribal political office or the formation of civil rights and Native sovereignty organizations. The handful of  boarding schools remaining today are Native-run, and they embrace Indigenous heritage, languages, traditions, and culture.

“Recent media attention and public discourse about American Indian boarding schools, reinforce the importance of the crucial look into our shared history that this exhibition provides,” said Emily Kapes, Curator of Art at The James Museum. “Through individual stories, we can learn so much about our past and make connections that inform our present and future.”

This exhibition is made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was adapted from the permanent exhibition, Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories, organized by The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. It was adapted and toured for NEH on the Road by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

Member reception

Due to the current COVID-19 infection rates, we have decided in the abundance of caution to forgo the in-person member reception for Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories. Members are welcome on Thursday, January 27 for your member-only preview day, and we are extending museum hours to close at 6 p.m. that day. There will be a limited number of gift boxes available for pick up from Thursday January 27 – Sunday January 30. You must register HERE to receive your gift box. One per household and the quantity is limited to 100.

All members will receive an email with a link to a recording of the presentation that Laura Hine, Executive Director, and Emily Kapes, Curator of Art, had planned to share with you at the reception. It will also be shared in the member email newsletter at the end of January.

This was a difficult decision to make, and we appreciate your understanding. We hope you enjoy Away from Home and look forward to gathering at our next member reception for Ansel Adams: The Masterworks and Clyde Butcher: America the Beautiful on Thursday, April 14.

Dates & Times

Member Preview & Reception
Thursday, January 27

Image and Exhibition Credits

This exhibition is made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was adapted from the permanent exhibition, Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories, organized by The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. It was adapted and toured for NEH on the Road by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Sioux children on their first day at school, 1897; photograph, variable size; Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Students posing at entrance to Chemawa Indian Training School, near Salem, Oregon, 1905; photograph, variable size; Courtesy of Pacific University Archives.