A Brief Timeline of Pacific Northwest Boarding Schools

March 3, 1819. The United States Congress passes the Civilization Fund Act to fight “against the continued decline and final extinction of the Indian tribes”. He entrusts “persons of good character” with instructing the Amerindians “in the mode of agriculture adapted to their situation; and to teach their children to read, write and count.

January 22, 1855. The Treaty of Point Elliott, signed at what is now Mukilteo, ceded ancestral Native lands to the United States and created reservations. Among the promises made to the tribes: a doctor, hunting and fishing rights, and an “agricultural and industrial school, free for the children of the said tribes and bands”.

1857. Chirouse asks the snohomish chief, Ns’ski-oos, for permission to live among the tribes. He was given a place to build a house near the mouth of Quil Ceda Creek, where he established the first missionary school. The campus moved the following year, according to local historian Les Parcs.

Father Eugene Casimir Chirouse. (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)

1866. Chirouse’s pupils grow from 48 to 35. He writes: “Disease has prevailed to a very large extent among the Sound Indians and I am sorry to say that my pupils have suffered much more than before. … As there is no doctor on the reserve, they continue to ask me for medicine, believing that my supply is inexhaustible.

Shortly after Father Eugene Chirouse opened a school for boys in Tulalip Bay, the Sisters of Providence opened a school for girls.  In this undated photo, two nuns stand with more than two dozen students on the steps of their Tulalip mission.  (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)

Shortly after Father Eugene Chirouse opened a school for boys in Tulalip Bay, the Sisters of Providence opened a school for girls. In this undated photo, two nuns stand with more than two dozen students on the steps of their Tulalip mission. (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)

1879. Carlisle Indian Industrial School opens in Pennsylvania, requiring students to speak English and embrace settler culture. The famous motto of its founder is to “kill the Indian” and “save the man”.

1881. A report from the Bureau of Indian Affairs states: “The Indian is evidently destined to live as long as the white race, or until he is absorbed and assimilated into his pale brethren. … The only alternative that remains is to prepare him by education for civilized life.

1900. The federal government begins to operate the Tulalip boarding school, ushering in an era of greater cultural repression. Meanwhile, epidemics of smallpox, pneumonia and tuberculosis come in waves, claiming many lives.

Charles Milton Buchanan arrived in Tulalip in 1894, serving first as the reserve's sole physician.  He became the first superintendent of the Tulalip Indian School.  He served as a federal liaison until his death in 1920. (Courtesy Hibulb Cultural Center)

Charles Milton Buchanan arrived in Tulalip in 1894, serving first as the reserve’s sole physician. He became the first superintendent of the Tulalip Indian School. He served as a federal liaison until his death in 1920. (Courtesy Hibulb Cultural Center)

1928. The Meriam Report, or ‘The Problem with Indian Administration’, details rampant abuse in boarding schools, as well as ‘deplorable health conditions’, ‘overcrowded dormitories’ and ‘almost complete denial of normal family life’ .

1932. Tulalip Federal Indian School closes.

Harriette Shelton Dover, a survivor of the federal residential school for Indian children in Tulalip, was credited with restoring the annual salmon ceremony and fighting for fishing rights.  (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)

Harriette Shelton Dover, a survivor of the federal residential school for Indian children in Tulalip, was credited with restoring the annual salmon ceremony and fighting for fishing rights. (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)

May 2022. A year after launching an official investigation into history boarding schools, US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announces the first findings in a 106-page report. A United States House committee hears testimony from Deborah Parker, a descendant of Tulalip residential school survivors, and Matthew War Bonnet, a South Dakota residential school survivor living in Snohomish.

Federal Indian boarding school sites identified in Washington.  (U.S. Department of Interior)

Federal Indian boarding school sites identified in Washington. (U.S. Department of Interior)

Sources: HistoryLink.com; the Hibulb Cultural Center; a timeline of the Tulalip tribes; research of historians Betty Lou Gaeng, Sister Dorothy Lentz and Carolyn Marr; diaries of Father Eugène Casimir Chirouse, Dr Charles Buchanan and Charles Larsen; and other primary documents.

Read the rest of this series, The Stolen Children of Tulalip.

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