Welcome to the SI 580 page for Indian Boarding Schools in Michigan.
Across the United States, as a direct result of the forced Indigenous migrations that took place after the United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, a number of federally-funded “Indian Boarding Schools” were established in the latter half of the 19th century. Under the guise of providing a Western education to their students, these boarding schools saw generations of Indigenous children forced to attend against their will.
The true goal of the schools was nothing less than total cultural erasure: students could be severely punished, even beaten, for speaking their native languages or following their native practices. Conditions were often harsh, and the teachers and staff were often unkind at best, cruel at worst. Many children did not survive. Those that did would bear the weight of their experiences for the rest of their lives. In many cases, forced attendance at these schools continued well into the middle of the 20th century.
In 2021, a ground-penetrating radar specialist in Kamloops, British Columbia, working for the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation, discovered a mass grave at a Canadian boarding school containing the remains of 215 children. This discovery, evidence of what many Indigenous tribal groups had spoken of for years, shocked the Canadian public and held up a grim mirror to America, sparking new discussions and investigations into the legacy of the Indian Boarding Schools in the United States. This page is an attempt to describe a brief history of that legacy in the state of Michigan, which had three boarding schools: Holy Childhood Boarding School, Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School, and Old St. Joseph Orphanage and School. It is also an attempt to show the ways in which Indigenous Michigan communities have come together to honor the survivors and the dead, and to seek healing as they move forward.
Please use the navigation bar at the top of the page to learn more about the various aspects of the Michigan boarding schools.