Exhibition tells the stories of federally operated boarding schools aimed to eradicate Native American cultures through forced assimilation of children.
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 the students who were affected. Historical photographs, objects, interactive timelines, and interviews tell individual stories of pain, heartbreak, and 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.
“Art is story and museums have a unique ability to share stories that allow us to see, feel and learn of lived human experience in a powerful way. This exhibition on American Indian Boarding Schools is an opportunity to learn about our past and make connections that inform our present and future,” said Laura Hine, Executive Director at The James Museum.
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 oneself 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.
“Some of the artists in our collection attended American Indian boarding schools, and we are showing their artwork alongside the historical documents and personal stories in this exhibition,” said Emily Kapes, Curator of Art. “Their boarding school experiences had a profound and lasting impact on their art, further demonstrating the effect boarding schools had on generations of Native Americans.”
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.
Save the Date!
Please be advised that the press preview for Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories is scheduled for Thursday, January 27, 2022, from 10 a.m. – noon.
The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art at 150 Central Avenue, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 727.892.4200 or visit www.thejamesmuseum.org.
About The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art
The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art provides experiences that inspire human connection and transformation through art depicting the peoples, landscapes, and history of the American West, and wildlife of the world. More than 400 premiere works of art including sculpture, paintings and jewelry are on display in the museum’s 26,000 square feet of gallery space. The museum engages the community through programs and educational opportunities, for all ages, that bring our history to life and amplify voices that are not often at the forefront of mainstream Western art. When The James Museum opened in April 2018 it became one of the newest additions to St. Petersburg’s thriving arts community.