Norton said the 10 include three Front Range schools to which Indigenous youth have been sent under federal contracts. She identified two of these as the Boys Industrial School in Golden and the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs. At the latter school, which still operates today, researchers found that at least four Ute children were sent there between 1893 and 1894. The Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind did not immediately make anyone available Thursday to comment on the finding.
Previously, a federal investigation released in May 2022 identified a total of five Indian boarding schools in Colorado, four of which were in the western part of the state and one in Denver. While the federal inventory focused on institutions that operated overnight boarding schools, History Colorado accounts for “day schools” that “were often used as boarding schools for out-of-state or out-of-area students.”
Referring to the three Front Range locations she noted on Thursday, Norton said: “We are not sure how the lived experience at these schools may have been different for the local youth than at the more traditional boarding schools such as the Front Range schools were not specifically designed for Aboriginal youth.” But their existence expands tribal and Coloradan understanding of the breadth of the treatment of Indigenous families in charge by white people.
Norton told the commissioners of Indian Affairs that the revelations stem from a week she and seven other researchers spent at the National Archives in Washington, DC, in late November. They focus their archival research on the period 1880-1920, as these are the early years that boarding schools operated in Colorado.
In addition to archival research, this fall History Colorado consulted remotely and in person with tribes including representatives of the Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute, Tohono O’odham, and the San Carlos Apache.
Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Manuel Heart attended the deliberations on the Fort Lewis site near Durango. In an interview in November after the visit, he said a walk around the site raised questions about potential burial sites there, like those found at other boarding schools in Canada, and US-Heart hopes the consultations and records will reveal more about them become who was forced into the schools.
“I suppose there will be Navajo, there might be Pueblo, maybe Hopi, maybe Zuni. Certainly the Ute tribes. Apaches could go there. We don’t really know until we look at some of the recordings,” he said.
Heart hopes the research will help affected tribes reclaim some of the culture their ancestors had to oppress a century ago. He said the boarding school era “took our language and our culture,” adding, “Today we’re looking at how we can revitalize and bring back all those things that were taken from us.”
When asked if he was satisfied with the pace and scope of History Colorado’s investigations, Heart said, “At least the process is in place, a consultation process … and eventually families can feel like they have appreciation for family members who do this.” attended boarding schools.”
History Colorado also conducted physical surveys of the Fort Lewis boarding school grounds this fall, and the information gathered is still being processed.
In October and November, a drone collected LIDAR data and infrared images.