The Stewart Indian School Welcome Center and Cultural Centers are now on a trajectory to become reality.
Gov. Brian Sandoval gave the school his support during his State of the State address on Jan. 17.
“An important piece of Nevada that holds a special place in our state’s and nation’s history is the Stewart Indian School in Carson City,” said Sandoval during the address.
He went on to declare that he has included $4.5 million to restore the two buildings on the campus for the welcome and cultural centers, and an investment of $1.2 million to begin restoration of the “old gym.”
Sherry Rupert, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission, lead on the initiative couldn’t agree more.
“It would have been easy for the Stewart Indian School and its history to fade into the past, like too many of the other Indian boarding schools all across this nation,” she said. “But now, with the Governor’s support and hopefully the support of our legislature, the true struggle of our people will be known.”
The Stewart Indian School was the only non-reservation Indian boarding school in Nevada, operated from 1890 to 1980 with a federal mandate to educate American Indian children, initially from the Great Basin Tribes (Washoe, Paiute, and Western Shoshone), but eventually led to the acceptance of children from tribal nations throughout the American West. The intent of the Indian boarding school was to educate and assimilate American Indian children so they could take their place in society and away from their culture and traditions.
The Stewart Indian School in Carson City represents this federal effort. In 1985 the school was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District and today is maintained and owned by the State of Nevada.
The State of Nevada Indian Commission, housed at Stewart, is the coordinating agency for discussions regarding activities at and uses of the buildings and grounds of the former Stewart Indian School.
The Commission’s vision is to develop a cultural heritage destination, which includes establishment of the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Welcome Center. The cultural center is meant to share the histories of the American Indian students that boarded at the school as well as evolution of the Stewart Indian School from 1890 to the 1980 closing. It is estimated that there were over 30,000 American Indian students that attended the school.
The cultural center is intended to be located in a building formerly used as the school’s Administration Office and Student Union. The cultural center will display memorabilia, house interpretive exhibits, provide research facilities, celebrate the arts and help tell the story of the Stewart Indian School. The proposed Welcome Center was originally the school post office and will serve as a welcome and information center where visitors will not only learn about current projects at Stewart, but it is also the starting point for the Stewart Indian School Trail. The Trail is a self-guided walking tour of the campus with 20 points of interest and audio stories. Using personal cell phones, visitors can access recorded messages from alumni and employees about their personal memories of the school.
Gov. Sandoval also made mention of restoration of the “old gym” at Stewart. The gym has been remembered fondly by native and non-natives that had previously played basketball there. Rupert said it has been identified by former students and employees as the heart of the campus. The intent is to preserve this gem for future cultural events.
Protection and investment in this asset will ensure Stewart’s legacy lives on. Future generations will soon know this hidden chapter in the history of the American West. ❂
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