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Archaeology of the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School

This presentation is a brief introduction to the history of United States Federal Boarding Schools and the results of archaeological research of the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School in 2012 by Central Michigan University.

Sarah Surface-Evans

on 12 May 2014

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Transcript of Archaeology of the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School

Reconstructing Lives & Landscapes
Archaeology of the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School
Transformation through
How can YOU help?
Why Archaeology?
Research Approach
Committee Goals
“Kill the indian in him and save the man.”
Pratt's Experiment
In the late 19th century,
Americans grew tired of the ongoing costs of waging war with Native communities.
Indian Boarding Schools
" We must either fight Indians, feed them, or else educate them."
In 1875, 72 prisoners of war were taken to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida.
Focused on assimilating prisoners by teaching them religion, language, & customs of dominant society.
Demonstrated "success" lead to his next project:
Carlisle Barracks transformed into a school for children.
Develop plan for research & preservation.
Renovation & reuse of buildings.
Support public education & truth-telling.
Re-imagine MIIBS as a place of healing & empowerment.
Archaeological Survey
Historic documents can be biased towards the perspective of dominant society.
Stories of the children were not recorded, or intentionally hidden.
Archaeology, provides an alternative method of reconstructing events of the past.
Share this story with others.
Show your support at the Day of Honoring, Healing, & Remembering on June 6th.
Read more at CMU Clarke Library
Visit: www.sagchip.org/miibs
Dr. Sarah Surface-Evans
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & Social Work

A Brief History:
- Richard Pratt, Captain of the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers
-Thomas Morgan, Commissioner of Indian Affairs
The US government looked
for alternatives...
Boarding School Abuses
Forced loss of traditional lifeways, language, religion, & customs.
Sexual & physical abuse (harsh punishment for noncompliance).
Deaths due to illness, starvation, & poor conditions.
Menial & hard labor to support "self-sufficient" working-farms.
Operated from 1893 to 1933.
Comprised of 320 acre working farm with over 50 buildings.
Thousands of children attended from various Great Lakes Tribes.
At least 200 documented deaths.
In 1934, converted to State Home for children with developmental delays.
Role of Archaeology
Conduct fieldwork/analysis to meet Committee goals.
Develop archaeological research plan, in consultation with community desires.
1) Assess whether artifacts & deposits from MIIBS are intact.
2) Reconstruct the past MIIBS landscape.
3) Investigate the lives of the former students.
Geophysical Survey
Botanical Survey
Research Approach
Mapping &
Examination of Buildings
Archaeological Excavation
In 2011, eight acres of former school purchased by the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan.
Power &
Domestic Chores:
Menial Labor:
Findings support accounts of student life as harsh and difficult, but also add a level complexity to the picture of life at MIIBS.
Training was menial, rigid, & focused on narrowly defined gender roles.
The school campus was built to reflect & enforce values of dominant society.
Beadwork permitted, but controlled.
Little evidence for eating the meat that was raised by the students.
What is the role of marbles? How were they used by administrators?
How did students use buttons - was this an act of resistance as oral history suggests?
Confirmed historic accounts of a fire at the laundry. Was it an act of arson?
The MIIBS Landscape
Kiowa Artist's drawing of the Buffalo Wallow Battle of 1874
Tom Torlino (Navajo)
Full transcript