Haskell Indian Nations University was established in 1884 as a government
boarding school to try to eliminate Native culture. Today it has evolved into a
university for Native students emphasizing Native culture, sovereignty, and
Although it originally started as an assimilation school like other government-run Indian boarding schools, Haskell's destiny was different than that of other schools. At present, Haskell is the only government boarding school that has evolved into a four-year university for Native students. It is also the only inter-tribal college accepting students from all federally recognized tribes.
Nineteen young Haskell students, representing 10 different tribes, submitted a petition questioning the number of student deaths at Haskell and asking the superintendent to investigate. May, 1988. Photo courtesy Haskell Indian Nations University.
1884 a government boarding school was established in Lawrence called the U.S. Indian Industrial
Training School. The school opened in September 31 with students from the
Ponca, Sac and Fox, Shawnee,
Kiowa, Comanche, and Chippewa Muncee tribes. This government boarding school
was part of the federal government's assimilation policy. This policy removed
Indian children from their families, sometimes forcibly, and placing them in
schools far from their homes for a period of up to four years to give them
training in domestic and farming skills. The assimilation policy was put in
place to remove all connections to the tribes and cultural influences to "assimilate" the students into the dominant culture. This policy was very
traumatic for Native families, and the effects of this boarding school era are
still affecting families today.
Jim Thorpe was a Sac and Fox/Potawatomi man born in Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Jim attended Haskell as a student from 1898-1900 where he was introduced to the fundamentals of football by fellow student and mentor Chauncey Archiquette. He later attended Carlisle Indian Industrial school in Pennsylvania where he became a legendary football and track athlete. He was a member of coach Pop Warner's All-American team at Carlisle. Jim later went on to win two gold medals at the 1912 Olympic Games held in Stockholm, Sweden. He was the only athlete in history to win both the Decathlon and Pentathlon. He is considered by some to be the greatest athlete of all time. Photo courtesy Haskell Indian Nations University
the beginning years Haskell was run as a military school where the students
made their own uniforms and grew and preserved their own food. The rules were
very strict -- no speaking a tribal language, no conversing with siblings, no
practicing of tribal customs and traditions. Their traditional clothing and
personal items were removed, their hair was cut, and they were forced to march
to classes and to church. In those beginning years, the children were taught to
speak English and classes were at an elementary school level.
the end of the first school year, there were 400 students coming from tribes
from all around the country. Eventually the level of education was increased
and went up to the high school level. A Commercial Department taught business
classes, including the first typing class in Kansas in 1895. A Normal School prepared
students to become teachers.
1933, Haskell got the first Native superintendent, Dr. Henry Roe Cloud. Dr. Roe
Cloud was a progressive educator and the first Native person to graduate from YaleUniversity.
During his time at Haskell, Dr. Roe Cloud reversed the assimilation style
emphasis on the curriculum and actually changed the curriculum to emphasize
students got their education at Haskell, they stayed on as staff and faculty.
One notable individual, George Shawnee, got his degree at Haskell and stayed on
as staff for 40 years, and saw 9,000 students go through Haskell. As these
staff and faculty stayed at Haskell, they slowly turned the school around. By
the 1930s, people who came to Haskell loved the school and learned trades such
as printing, nursing, business, and other vocational-technical trades such as
electricity and refrigeration, as well as receiving high school diplomas.
The first typing class in Kansas was taught at Haskell in 1896. This photo shows the Haskell typing class as part of the Commercial Department, c. 1920. Photo courtesy Haskell Indian Nations University.
Group of Haskell students, 1968. Photo courtesy Haskell Indian Nations University
In 1970, the level of education increased to that of a junior college and the name
was changed to HaskellIndianJunior College. And in 1993, Haskell introduced the
first four-year baccalaureate degree program in elementary teacher education
and the name was changed to HaskellIndianNationsUniversity.
there are four four-year degree programs--elementary teacher education,
business, environmental science, and American Indian Studies. There are several
two-year associate degrees offered. There are an average of 950 students each
semester, coming from approximately 130 different tribes, and from about 35
different states. Almost all of the faculty are Native and all classes are
taught from a Native perspective.
Stephen Prue, Public Information Officer,
Haskell Indian Nations University Bobbi Rahder, Museum Curator, Haskell
Cultural Center and Museum
LEARN MORE ABOUT HASKELL INDIAN NATIONS UNIVERSITY
Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, Indian Avenue and Barker. 785.832.6686. Open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Established in 2002, the cultural center and museum was begun to truthfully tell the story of Haskell. The gallery space currently
offers the exhibition called Honoring Our Children Through Seasons of
Sacrifice, Survival, Change, and Celebration. This exhibit honors the first
students of Haskell and the sacrifices they made so that all Native students can
study at the present day university. It celebrates the strength and resilience
of students and their contributions to what Haskell has become today.
museum is a living center, celebrating living Native culture. The vision of the
and Museum is to serve as a steward of living American Indian materials and
traditions. The museum provides present day and historical information
regarding American Indian culture through art, exhibitions, educational programs,
and research, and serves as a teaching facility.
The HaskellCulturalCenter is a place of healing from the
trauma of the boarding school era that the first students endured, so a healing
garden surrounds the outside of the CulturalCenter.
One of the main
features of the permanent gallery space is the replica of the Haskell Medicine
Wheel. The real Medicine Wheel is an earthwork south of the campus created in
1992 by elders, students, and faculty to honor all Native nations. This sacred
place was where some of the early Haskell students ran to get away from the
strict climate at the school, and it is still used by current Haskell students
as a place of worship and prayer.
The Honoring Our
Native Veterans Wall recognizes the contributions of the many Haskell
veterans who have served in all of the wars in high numbers, including 415
soldiers who served in WW I as well as the present day soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. The War Mother Memorial in
front of the CulturalCenter features plaques
from each of the four branches of the military as well as the sculpture by
Barry Coffin who represents the mother of all the soldiers who have served from
includes paper documents, administrative records, history books, student
rosters, theatre and music programs, photographs, films, and videotapes of
Haskell events, as well as the student-run newspapers and yearbooks since 1897. In addition to the
archives, the CulturalCenter and Museum houses
over 2,000 items such as traditional clothing and headdresses, jewelry,
baskets, pottery, beadwork, and art.
The Haskell Arch and Stadium, Haskell campus. Dedicated in 1926, the construction cost was $166,000 and was entirely paid for by funds donated by Native Americans. The stadium was the first lighted stadium in the midwest.
American Indian Athlete Hall of Fame, Coffin Sports Complex. A collection of plaques honors such American Indian athletes as Olympians Jim Thorpe and Billy Mills and major league baseball pitcher Allie Reynolds.
Haskell Cemetery, southeast side of Haskell campus, past the American Horse Hall. Neatly lined in rows, the simple grave markers list the anglicized names, dates of birth, and tribal affiliations (37 tribes represented) of the children buried here. Half of these children died with the in first five years of Haskell's existence. Ask for a self-guided walking tour brochure to see more landmark locations.