Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and MuseumThe vision becomes reality!
Museum Updates: January 9, 2020
The new Stewart Cultural Center and Museum is now Open!
Beginning January 13, 2020, Winter Hours 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, closed for state and federal holidays.
Grand Opening Celebration May 9, 2020
On December 16, 2019, we held a First Look Reception for the Stewart alumni and their families to get the very first glimpse of the newly renovated Cultural Center and Welcome Center buildings. On December 17, 2019, we invited our community partners and general public to see the partially completed museum. Over 200 people attended the two receptions. Click Here to see photos.
Our Home, Our Relations: Permanent Stewart Exhibit
Curated by Museum Director Bobbi Rahder, Curator Chris Ann Gibbons, Stewart Alumni Cultural Advisory Committee, Consultants Melissa Melero-Moose, Ben Aleck, Samantha Williams, and contractors Gallagher and Associates, Pacific Studios.
Stewart Indian School in Carson City, Nevada, was operated by the federal government for 90 years, from 1890-1980. During that time, it underwent many changes at the federal level, as well as at the local level. And thousands of students, their families, and communities were affected.
Allotment, Assimilation, and Boarding Schools
The federal government set up boarding schools to educate Native American children in the late 1800s. This forced assimilation policy was part of treaty rights but justified dividing up Native land through allotment and intended to assimilate Indian children into dominant culture. Boarding schools offered basic academics but emphasized patriotism, citizenship, and manual labor skills. These government policies strictly forbade the students from practicing their traditions or speaking their languages, they had no contact with families, and aspects of their lives were severely controlled. They were cut off from their families, culture, and languages.
Nevada State Funding
Funding In 2015, the Nevada Governor and Legislature appropriated state funding to create the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum and Welcome Center to interpret these 90 years of history. This new museum is slated to open in 2019 and is dedicated to the memories of the first Stewart students from Great Basin tribes in 1890, and all students and their families who were impacted by the Stewart experience.
Walking into the lobby of the museum, visitors explore the Native land Stewart occupies, as well as to imagine the way the land looked before Stewart was established. The storytelling room features an exhibit about the four main language groups of Nevada: Wa She Shu (Washoe); Numu (Northern Paiute); Nuwu (Southern Paiute); and Newe (Western Shoshone). Among these four groups are 27 federally recognized tribes, bands, and colonies. This room is used for storytelling by members of these tribal nations, as well as craft demonstrations, and documentaries about Stewart Indian School and Nevada’s tribes. The museum’s hallway features changing exhibits of class photos from the graduating classes at Stewart, as well as student art produced when the school was open. The Research Room has archival documents, photographs, and publications about Stewart as well as boarding school history for the public and alumni to access. In addition, the Research Room has an exhibit about the work of Hopi stonemasons and students in the 1920s who made hand crafted stone buildings and landscaping. The Wa-Pai-Shone Gallery features the work of contemporary Great Basin Native artists through the Great Basin Native Artist Association.
Our Home Our Relations Permanent Exhibit
The main exhibit gallery is an exhibit about Stewart’s 90-year history and all the changes it went through. The exhibit discusses the federal allotment and assimilation policies and the creation of Stewart as a federally operated off-reservation boarding school. This exhibit tells the stories of the students who attended Stewart through their own words. The following is a description of the exhibits:
- In “Coming to Stewart” the students describe the many reasons they attended Stewart from forced kidnapping to wanting an education.
- The exhibit moves into a visual and textual timeline about the changes Stewart underwent and the main events and important parts of the school’s history, both administratively and personally.
- The “Daily Life” exhibit demonstrates what the school was like on a daily basis for the students with stories about schedules, curricula, living in the dormitories, marching to classes, and learning vocational skills.
- The “Shadow of Stewart” documents the sad history of the students who were forced to go to the school, those who ran away and were punished, as well as those who fell ill from contagious diseases and passed away at the school. It also demonstrates how the school impacted the students and their families emotionally and psychologically and that trauma is carried over to their descendants today (intergenerational trauma).
- The “Making Home” section talks about how the students survived by making the school their second home: helping the younger ones, making life-long friendships, and joining clubs, band, and athletics to create their own communities.
- “Stewart in Transition” talks about the many changes Stewart went through, as the school’s focus changed from the reforms of the 1930s, to the Navajo Program in the 1940-50s, to the resistance and American Indian Movement during the 1960s.
- The “Voices of Stewart” demonstrates the many languages of Stewart’s tribes as the student body changed from the early Great Basin tribes, to the tribes from many tribes in the West.
- And, “Stewart Today” talks about the amazing lives the alumni led after leaving Stewart, from representing their tribes in the state legislature or tribal councils, to careers in everything from art, to business, to health.
The compelling history of Stewart will also be shared in educational activities, lectures, programs, and conferences as well as a Volunteer, Docent, and Intern Programs. Watch for future educational classes. If you would like to donate to help us create these classes with cultural teachers please make a cash donation in our donation box or mail a check made out to the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum and send it to our address: 5366 Snyder Ave., Carson City, NV, 89701. If you would like to volunteer to help us, please click on the link below and fill out the Volunteer form and send it to us either online or through the mail. Volunteer Form Download
We look forward to seeing you visit our new museum and cultural center.
For a complete list of Stewart Indian School resources, CLICK HERE
To download the Stewart Indian School Oral History Booklet CLICK HERE
To view our historic photography library CLICK HERE
We invite the public to learn about the beautiful rocks that were used to build over 60 buildings at the Stewart Indian School campus. Former state geologist Jonathan Price and Dennis Bryan created a scavenger hunt to learn about the rocks used in the Stewart buildings. To download a copy of the scavenger hunt, please CLICK HERE.
To view our archive of Stewart Indian School Yearbooks, CLICK HERE
Volunteers are Welcome
We welcome volunteers who would like to help us with giving tours, data entry of Stewart artifacts, documents, and photographs into a database, and preserving the collections. Please fill out the application form and let us know what you enjoy doing and we will match you with our needs. To Download Volunteer Application Click Here.
Cultural Center Staff
I’m so honored to be the museum director for the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum. I came to Nevada for the first time in May 2017 to accept this position. I’m very fortunate to build on the foundation of research and funding support of the Stewart Indian School that Sherry L. Rupert, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission, and Chris Ann Gibbons, curator, have established. I previously worked at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS, which used to be a government boarding school for Native children like Stewart. At Haskell, I helped to design and operate the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum. I’ve also worked as a museum professional in other museums and have curated many exhibitions and educational programs using museum collections. There are many unique things about the Stewart Indian School that I am excited to share through our new museum and an exhibition illustrating the stories of Stewart alumni and the changes at Stewart over its 90 year history. The cultural center is a part of the Stewart Indian School Living Legacy and Master Plan that honors the students from Stewart and interprets the 110-acre campus as a former government boarding school that has evolved into a cultural heritage destination.
Chris Ann Gibbons began with the Nevada Indian Commission in 2005 and is currently the Curator for the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum. As Curator, Chris primarily works on organizing and preserving the archival documents, photographs, and artifacts that tell Stewart’s history and feels very fortunate to be part of the team responsible for opening the Cultural Center and Museum. Chris is a graduate of Southern Oregon University with a degree in History and minors in both Native American Studies and Art History. Currently, she is working on obtaining a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from the University of Oklahoma. Before coming to the Commission, Chris worked in educational outreach and programming for the Southern Oregon Historical Society.