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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Indian schools in Wisconsin

Definition:

Early Religious Schools: From 1661 to 1728, Jesuit missionaries taught Indian children, but for nearly a century after their departure there is no record of Indian education by whites. After the War of 1812, the U.S. government encouraged such work, however, and by 1836 there were 10 Indian schools teaching 1,300 pupils in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Protestant missionaries taught schools for Menominee, Ojibwe and Oneida children in Green Bay, 1829-1841, as well as among the Mohicans at Stockbridge, 1830-1848. In the same region, Catholic missionaries opened schools among the Menominee as that nation moved from Green Bay to Lake Poygan and Keshena, 1830-1852. On Lake Superior, Protestant missionaries ran schools for Ojibwe children at LaPointe, Odanah, at Yellow Lake in Burnett Co., and at Lac Court Oreilles during the years 1831-1854; Catholic missionaries also educated Indian children at LaPointe, 1835-1853. Many records of these early missionary schools were published in vol XIV of Wisconsin Historical Collections. For more information, see Wisconsin Magazine Of History, vol. 58 no. 2 (1974-1975): 140-148 and vol. 64 no. 4 (1981): 242-260.  

Schools That Existed during the Assimilation Era: Between 1887 and 1934, the federal government attempted to mainstream Native Americans through the policies of assimilation and allotment. At the height of this era, the following schools taught Indian children in Wisconsin:

 
U.S. Government Boarding Schools in 1899:

- Menominee Boarding School at Keshena, with 170 students and 5 staff;

- Oneida Boarding School at Oneida, with 131 students and 5 staff, superintendents Charles F. Pierce 1893-1899 and Joseph C. Hart 1900-1906

- Lac du Flambeau Boarding School at Lac du Flambeau, with 150 students and 5 staff, superintendents, Reuben Perry 1896-1902, HenryJ. Phillips 1903-1905, and John Flinn 1906.

U.S. Government Day Schools in 1899:

- Stockbridge Day School, 8 miles west of Keshena, with 34 students and 1 teacher;

- three day schools at Oneida, with 69 students in all and 1 teacher at each;

- day schools with a total enrollment of 297 and 7 total staff were operated at Paquahawong (20 miles from Hayward), at the Red Cliff Reservation at Odanah, and at Lac Court d'Oreilles Reservation at Hayward (superintendent William A. Light 1903-1906).

Boarding Schools Run by Others for the U.S. Government in 1899:

- Tomah Industrial School at Tomah, with 150 students and 5 staff (est. 1891, opened 1893), superintendents, S.C. Sanborn 1892-1895, H.D.Arkwright 1896, and L.M. Compton 1897-1906;

- Wittenberg School at Wittenberg, with 140 students and 4 staff (est. 1886 by the Norwegian Evangelical Church of America, government oversight est. 1895), superintendents Axel Jacobsen 1894-1904 and S.A.M. Young 1905-1906.

Winnebago Indian School (Black River Falls and Neillsville): See separate entry for this private school founded in 1878 by missionaries.

View more information and original documents, including eyewitness accounts and pictures of some of these schools, at Turning Points in Wisconsin History.   

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

[Source: Smith, Alice E. From Exploration to Statehood (Madison, 1973),Statistics of Indian tribes... (Washington, 1899); Godfrey, Anthony. A Forestry History of Ten Wisconsin Indian Reservations... (Salt Lake City, 1996).]
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