Transforming Buildings at the Stewart Indian School Into a Cultural Center and Museum
Over a period of 90 years, Native American students arrived at the Stewart Indian School in Carson City, Nevada, in circumstances as varied as the different tribal cultures they represented. Many were made to attend the boarding school against their and their family’s will, as part of the federal government’s forced assimilation policy. “Some were just picked up in a cattle truck [and taken to the school], and their parents didn’t know where they were,” says Bobbi Rahder, director of the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum, which opened in January. “In other cases, the parents wanted the kids to go, or the kids may have wanted to. Alumni have told us there were many different reasons.”
The school operated from 1890 to 1980, and the 110-acre site is now on the National Register. The Nevada Indian Commission worked closely with the state historic preservation office and Reno, Nevada-based H+K Architects on the rehabilitation of two structures—the 1923 Administration Building and the 1925 post office—that now house the museum. Both were built with locally quarried stone by Hopi and Italian masons, as well as student apprentices. The stone walls and fireplaces were preserved as part of the rehab, as were original wood ceiling beams and windows.The museum addresses the school’s complicated legacy with exhibitions based on input from Stewart alumni and relatives. A self-guided audio tour of the grounds and a virtual tour are both available; visit the museum’s website for updates on its opening status.