Child artisans of the northern plains : woodcarving at Fort Shaw Indian School, 1892-1910
Scott, Kristi Dawn
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Numerous contract and federal Indian boarding schools operated on the northern plains during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Though there were thousands of Indian children who attended schools in Montana, boarding school culture there remains very much shrouded in mystery. This thesis illuminates individual biographies that intersect with manual arts training at the Fort Shaw Indian School that operated from 1892-1910. Thirteen sunken-relief wood carvings were created in this central Montana school, and now reside in the Smithsonian's vast repositories. A closer look at circumstances that led to their manifestation at the off-reservation federal institution reveals a complex public history of race, gender and curriculum. These examples, and others, illustrate the great potential of museum artifacts as informative sources that tether us to a not-so-distant past. This significant material warrants inclusion in the patchwork of memories that inform our understandings of boarding school cultures nationally. Further, the artworks featured in this thesis elucidate the work of child artisans on the northern plains who had previously been all but silenced and help us reengage with an era that is significant to our shared regional history.