For the first time, the general public can get a glimpse of life at Stewart Indian School, 130 years after the government boarding school opened in Carson City and 40 years after it was closed.
The new Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum — long a dream of alumni and tribal leaders in the state — opens its doors on Monday. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free. Stewart Indian School is located at 5500 Snyder Ave., in Carson City.
The Cultural Center & Museum occupies what was once the school’s administrative building. More than $4.5 million in funding from the Nevada Legislature in 2017 and 2019, along with the support of Govs. Brian Sandoval (2017) and Steve Sislolak (2019) were utilized for the renovation.
The state of Nevada also funded contracts with Gallagher and Associates of San Francisco and Pacific Studio of Seattle to work with the museum staff and the Stewart Alumni Cultural Advisory Committee to tell the stories from the student perspective in a new permanent exhibit called “Our Home, Our Relations.”
“We are so grateful to the Nevada State Legislature and Gov. Sisolak and Gov. Sandoval for funding this important endeavor,” museum director Bobbi Rahder said. “We honor the Stewart alumni for being willing to share their stories to help the public learn this important part of Nevada’s history.”
First opened in 1890, Stewart Indian School was operated by the federal government for 90 years before it closed in 1980. Stewart and other boarding schools across the nation initially were set up to forcefully educate Native American children in the late 1800s. This assimilation policy impacted thousands of Native students not only from the Great Basin tribal nations but more than 200 tribes during the school’s 90-year history.
Stewart alumni say every student’s experience was different, ranging from traumatic to happy. Their stories are shared in the “Our Home, Our Relations,” permanent exhibit.
“We want to honor and memorialize all the students who were impacted by this federally operated boarding school on the outskirts of our state’s capital,” said Stacey Montooth, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission. “The indigenous people of this land have always been storytellers, and at this unique place, the public will learn about this often overlooked, but vital history of the first people in Nevada.”
In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Cultural Center & Museum features the Wa-Pai-Shone Gallery, a temporary gallery space for contemporary Great Basin Native art; the Storytelling Room for storytelling and craft making; a research room where relatives can research their family members who attended Stewart; and classroom space for educational activities, lectures and public programs.