In 1891, the Fort Lewis military camp located near Hesperus, transitioned to a boarding school for Native Americans. The school reached its highest enrollment of 375 students about the time this picture was taken at the turn of the century. Besides teaching the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, it was an industrial training school (agriculture, home economics, carpentry). Another objective of these boarding schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was to assimilate Native American youths into Euro-American culture. This purpose has since been widely denounced. Students were forced to have European-American-style haircuts, forbidden to speak their Indigenous languages and had their real names replaced by European names. The schools were typically located far from their tribes, separating the students from their culture. The Fort Lewis boarding school closed in 1910. In 1911, the state of Colorado accepted the property in a grant from the federal government and agreed to maintain it as an institution of learning and admit Native American students free of tuition. This promise from the state still exists today. Recently, it was estimated that about 45% of FLC students are Native Americans.
Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, email@example.com