Indian School Makes Historical Landmark List

A photo of Dine' (Navajo) girls on the front porch of hospital/girls' dormitory at the Theodore Roosevelt School, taken sometime between 1928-29.
March 07, 2012

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The federal government has designated the Theodore Roosevelt School in Fort Apache, Arizona, as a national historic landmark. The school represents a shady chapter of American history between the U.S. government and Indian tribes.

The Theodore Roosevelt School was one of 14 U.S. Army forts redeveloped as a boarding school that sought to assimilate American Indians. Less than a century ago, teachers used severe methods to essentially erase Native language and culture from Indian children.

Historian John Welch says many Native Americans who were forced to attend school there might prefer to forget this place.

"It’s not a celebration of this history," said Welch, the former historic preservation officer for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. "It’s an opportunity to add chapters to that history and to make sure the full spectrum of stories are told."

Welch hopes with the new designation people will learn that the White Mountain Apache people are not hostile as filmmakers and novelists have portrayed them.

Today, Fort Apache is the site of a middle school for White Mountain Apache children, where they proudly teach Native American culture.