Rediscovering the U.S. Indian School in Genoa

Published: May. 6, 2021 at 9:57 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A former federal boarding school for Native Americans closed down in 1934. But, memories of the campus still linger.

We caught up with Nancy Carlson to find out more about it. “This was put in operation in 1884,” Carlson said. “The government established these boarding schools for the Native Americans to try and assimilate them into ‘society’. This was the fourth of a series of boarding schools that was established.”

Children were sent to the school to be educated. They worked half a day learning a trade, and then they went to school half a day. “They started in 1884 with 74 students, and the largest enrollment was in 1932 with 599 students,” Carlson said. “These children when they came here, they had their hair cut, they were given uniforms to wear, and they could not speak their native language. The boys learned trades, usually agricultural. The girls were taught nursing, cooking and sewing.”

Carlson says when the former students graduated, they either went on to further their education or they went back to reservations. “Some of them had a hard time when they went back to the reservation,” Carlson said. “They didn’t feel like they fit in on the reservation, but they also didn’t feel like they belonged in general society, either. So, that was hard on them.”

“We have worked hard to make this a welcoming place for descendants of the former students,” Carlson said. “We started in 1990 to have a celebration. We started a foundation, and held a reunion for former students and their families. It is their children and grand children who are coming back and wanting information about what went on here.”

The school showcases more than 40 flags that represent the tribes that sent students to the school. “They came from all over the United States,” Carlson said. “You’d think it might be just here in Nebraska, but it’s from all over the United States. It was quite a diverse group of students here at any one time.”

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