Located just four miles south of the Nevada State Capital in Carson City, lies fascinating and historically rich Stewart Indian School. Originally operating as a school from 1890 to 1980, the Stewart Indian School was part of the Native American boarding schools project, a program that removed children from their families in an attempt to eradicate the Native American culture. Children and Indian youth from Nevada, California, Arizona and New Mexico representing 200 tribes were relocated to schools like the Stewart Indian School, where they were forbidden to speak their native languages or dress in traditional garb. Institutions like this forced students to learn English and study vocational skills like ranching and carpentry, which ultimately meant conforming to the Anglo society. While many viewed this as abolishing entire cultures, others saw this as an opportunity for Native Americans to gain a quality education and become Nevada citizens.
Named after William M. Stewart, Nevada’s first senator, the Stewart Indian School opened its doors on December 17, 1890. The first class was comprised of 37 Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone students and staffed by 3 instructors. Perhaps Stewart’s most striking feature is the masonry implemented in nearly every edifice. Although a mere three buildings were all that stood when Stewart opened its doors, Native American masons constructed an additional 60 by the 1920s. At one time, the school even had a 10,000 gallon swimming pool and a platform for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.
The Stewart Indian School was in operation until 1980, when it closed due to Federal budget cuts and poor safety standards. Later in 1985, the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places, which encompasses all 63 structures you can visit today.
Today, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California established the Stewart Colony on grounds adjacent to the former school. The building is most commonly used as a training facility and a few state sponsored courses.
To fully appreciate this thread of rich Nevada history, visitors can partake in a free walking tour through the grounds. Visitors, referencing signs at the site, can use their personal cell phones to call the audio tour, which consists of Stewart alumni sharing stories about their personal experiences at the school. Comprised of 20 stops, the trail is 0.6 miles on paved surface and winds throughout this historical property. If you happen to be visiting Carson City during the month of June, swing by the Stewart Indian School’s annual Father’s Day Powwow, which presents traditional competition dancing, Stewart School alumni recognition, arts and crafts, special events and exhibits.
Add the Stewart Indian School to your next Nevada itinerary to help get a better understanding and deep appreciation of the American Indian presence in the Silver State!