Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Source on the Mount Pleasant Indian School

By Katie Wilson, Clarke Historical Library student assistant 

The Clarke is well-known for its historical materials related to the Mount Pleasant Indian School. Among these collections are reports, published sources, unpublished manuscripts, historical accounts, and a collection of Mount Pleasant newspaper clippings. The Mount Pleasant Indian School Newspaper Clippings Collection contains articles found in local newspapers from 1892- 1928 that pertain to the school. This collection, which has been in the Clarke since 2003, sees frequent use from patrons. However, this collection only covered the school until 1928. The Mount Pleasant Indian School was not shut down until 1934. This left 6 years of unclipped newspapers, containing much sought after information.
In 2014, a graduate student from CMU’s history department created a database that included references to Native Americans in Isabella County newspapers.   After he completed his research, he gave the Clarke this database. In the Spring of 2015, I began to go through the database looking for articles specifically related to the Mount Pleasant Indian School. Each article I found I cropped for easier visibility.  I then printed the article, placed it in a folder, and labeled the folder. 

The articles cover a variety of subjects pertaining to the Mount Pleasant Indian School—baseball scores, band concerts, graduation lists, general updates on the school itself, etc.  The newspapers seemed to cover the Mount Pleasant Indian School just as they did the Mount Pleasant High School. In later years, the Indian School even had its own column that the students kept up to date.

Immersing myself in the history of the school was a stimulating experience. To me the most interesting discoveries were the published opinions about the shutting down of the school. Leading voices in Mount Pleasant had strong reservations about closing the school.  Many of the children had nowhere to go. These children were taken from their families years prior and had been taught to give up their original culture.  Many of them did not even know their birth-names. Administration would not only have trouble finding their families, but if they succeeded, the reintegration of the students would cause a strain on the Native American communities. The articles also mentioned the difficulty of transitioning students into public schools and the negative effects it would have on the school systems already experiencing cutbacks in the middle of the Great Depression.

Nevertheless, funding had been cut drastically for the Indian School already and keeping the school open would not have been practical. The school was purchased by the state and converted into a state home. Reading through these final articles was truly fascinating. In the early 1920’s America was forward looking in many ways, but in other ways the country was not so progressive as the reaction to the existence of the school and to its shutting down demonstrated.

This new addition to the collection includes information from 40 reels of microfilm. It will be made available to patrons as soon as it is catalogued.