Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School
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The Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School and many like it across the country were established by an act of the United States Congress in 1891 that provided funding for the creation of an education system of off-reservation boarding schools and vocational training centers to educate Native American children.
The cornerstone of the first of eleven buildings that would make up the boarding school's campus was placed in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 people from all over the state on October 18, 1892. As part of the crowd's celebration, they congregated in the town of Mount Pleasant, Michigan and then paraded out to the school grounds. The Grand Master of the Free and Accepted Masons was on hand to lead in the "ancient ritual" of laying the cornerstone and the Grand Chaplain led the crowd in a Christian prayer to bless the school and all those that would reside there. What then was known at the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School started as a small school run by the United Methodist Church and had previously been known as the "farm school" as it was out in the middle of farmland outside of Mount Pleasant.
Buildings and grounds
In 1892, the construction of the first school building for the purposes of educating Native American children began. October 18, 1892, dedication ceremonies for the main building took place and on January 3, 1893, the eight-classroom building opened to the first seventeen students. By June, 1893 enrollment had increased significantly and in the coming years it was necessary to build additional buildings to house all of the students and their daily activities. These included separate boys and girls dormitories, a hospital, a woodworking and blacksmith shop; a building for industrial training, a dining hall, a clubhouse for the employees of the school, several farm buildings, and the school built a new gymnasium in 1910. Adjacent to the school's location there was an "Indian Cemetery" that still exists today.
Native American children from all over the State of Michigan along with children from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York came to the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School, which boasted an average enrollment of more than 300 students for many of the years it was open. Many of these Native American children came to the school after being sent by their parents in hopes that they would receive a good, well-rounded education. Some children came to the boarding school in Mount Pleasant because they had nowhere else to go; either orphaned by the deaths of their parents or other family members abandoned them. There are accounts that parents from all over the state were writing letters pleading with the Superintendent of the school to allow their children to attend, mostly because there was no work or food available and they felt their children would have a better life.
School is in session
The Native American children at the boarding school received basic academic instruction in grades kindergarten through eighth at the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School. A very strict and structured schedule focused on vocational training and religious education. Classes were offered in English language, woodworking, farming, sewing/tailoring, laundry, housekeeping and basic first aid. The coursework included learning how to fit into "white culture".
The Mount Pleasant Branch of the Michigan Home and Training School
Classes for the Native American children at the school continued until the school closed on June 6, 1934 when the State of Michigan took over the property for Michigan Department of Mental Health services. The property underwent a name change, at the time the State took it over, to The Mount Pleasant Branch of the Michigan Home and Training School. The intent of this home and training school was to house and train mentally handicapped young men. Many of the boys were abandoned; some were juvenile criminals that did not understand their crime or charges in court, even more of the residents were mentally or physically handicapped, but a majority of the residents had some kind of mental health issue.
The facility closed in 2008; the State of Michigan made the decision to close due to budget shortfalls at the state level and a dwindling number of patients being assisted at the location. Since their closure, the buildings have lain empty and abandoned. Today, the majority of the buildings' windows and doors are broken or boarded over and the buildings lie in disrepair. The interiors of the buildings are filled with old and used furniture, unused medical supplies, trash, and anything that was left behind by the staff. Much of the appearance of the interior is due to years of neglect and after the closure, the complex was left abandoned and vacant, which left the buildings and grounds vulnerable to vandals. Now the property of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation, the site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 in the effort save the building. One plan is to make the former school a museum.
- Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe
- Carlisle Indian Industrial School
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Native American Boarding Schools
- Mount Pleasant, Michigan
- State of Michigan