Life in the Tulalip Indian Boarding School

From the 1857 to 1932, Tulalip youngsters were expected to attend school in the boarding school on the Tulalip Reservation with students from the other reservations on northern Puget Sound. School officials would take the children from their parents, and they would live at the school except during the summer when they returned home. The children missed their families and could be heard crying after the lights were out. In addition, at that time, U.S. policy stated that Native American students were to stop using their language and practicing their culture and religion and to learn English, American culture and Christianity.

At the boarding school, the students spent half a day in classes. Their classes covered subjects, such as reading and writing English, mathematics, geography, nature and penmanship. The first years must have been difficult because many students arrived at the school speaking their native language and did not understand English. They were forbidden to speak their own language and could be punished if they did use it.

Students spent the other half of their day doing manual labor. This was to teach the students how to do new types of work and to do the work of the school. Because there was not enough government money to operate the school, student work was needed to keep it running. In the early days of the mission school, the students helped to clear the land, so that they could plant crops. Later, the work of the boys included chopping wood, farming, fishing and keeping farm animals. They were expected to work in the shoe repair shop, the harness shop, the machine shop, the carpentry shop, the laundry and the bakery. The boys kept the buildings and water heated by bringing the wood or coal for the furnaces. They also were trained to watch the gauges in the powerhouse, which supplied electricity to the school. Both boys and girls did the cleaning. The work of the girls included cooking, serving, cleaning, laundry, mending and sewing. They also worked in the hospital.

Each pupil at the Tulalip School must put in a half day in one of the industrial departments and a half day in the classroom or academic work daily. In order that the school may be run on a regular program, the enrollment is divided into two divisions, one division working in the industrial departments while the other is doing classroom or academic work.

Saturday evenings are set aside for moving picture entertainments and school socials. Otherwise, the Saturday program is the same as for other days.

The Sunday program makes provision for church during the forenoon and religious instruction for a period during the afternoon. General assembly was held in the evening. The only labor performed on Sundays was essential for the maintenance of the school.

There was discipline and punishment at the school, which included extra work, such as sweeping the walks. Sometimes, students would be strapped.

The Tulalip Indian Boarding School went through the eighth grade, and often there were not many students in the eighth grade. One year, when there were enough students, there was a ninth grade. Few of the male students graduated. When the boys were old enough to work in the woods, in logging, they left school. This could happen as early as 13 or 14 years old.

In this regimented way, Native American students at the Tulalip Boarding School were being taught to live in the culture of the United States. The U.S. government believed that Native American students would need to learn new things to live in the newly expanded United States with settlers arriving. The school was set up to separate the students from their parents. Being required to stay at the school was very hard for some of the children. Many of students, especially the younger ones, were homesick and were comforted by the older students. Having the students work at the school was hard, but this was a time before there were U.S. laws against child labor and many children at the time worked. The boarding school was a hard experience for many Tulalip students.

Indian Reorganization Act

The Tulalip Tribes was organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Tulalips' Constitution and Bylaws were approved January 24, 1936, and a Charter ratified October 3, 1936. The governing body is the seven member Tulalip Board of Directors. The tribes has over 4,900 members and provides many services including an early learning academy, higher education assistance, health and dental clinics, a pharmacy, a state-licensed chemical dependency recovery program, senior retirement home and cultural activities. In addition to two Marysville School District (MSD) schools, the tribes collaborates with MSD, providing on-reservation alternative school programs. Additionally, the Tulalip Tribes provides oversight to the Tulalip Housing Authority, which provides nearly 300 housing units for tribal members, and to the Tulalip Utilities District, the primary provider of water/sewer services on the reservation.

Chronology of Tulalip History

1792 Snohomish tribes meet explorer Captain George Vancouver, who concludes that they had not met Europeans or Americans before.
1820 Fur trade routes established though Puget Sound region.
1833 Possible date of Camano Head falling and burying a Snohomish village below it, causing a large number of deaths.
1841 Captain Charles Wilkes is the first American to chart the waters of Puget Sound.
1842 Settlers start to move into the Puget Sound region. U.S. Government starts to sell land and open areas for homesteads without having title to the land.
1848 The Oregon Territory is created with the provision that Indian lands and property cannot be taken without Indian consent.
1853 The Washington Territory is created as a separate entity from the Oregon Territory with the provision that the United States has the right to regulate Indian land, property and other rights.
1853 Several Americans build a sawmill and homesteads on Tulalip Bay. After the Treaty of Point Elliott is signed, the U.S. Government pays these settlers for their improvements.
1855 On January 22nd, Governor Isaac Stevens concludes the Treaty of Point Elliott at Mukilteo, which establishes the Tulalip Reservation.
1855 Hostilities erupt between Native Americans and whites in the Puget Sound Region, but the people in the area around the Tulalip Reservation are not involved.
1857-1863 Father E.C. Chirouse, a French Roman Catholic of the Oblates of Mary the Immaculate, establishes and conducts a school for boys on the Tulalip Reservation.
1859 Treaty ratified by U.S. Congress, and soon, the Tribes that agreed to the treaty begin to settle in the vicinity of Tulalip Bay.
1860 More than 200 Indians have settled near Father Chirouse and he has 15 pupils. At Tulalip, an agency is established under the Washington Superintendence and an agent is assigned.
1859-1869 Political appointees serve as Tulalip agents, followed by military officers.
1861 Revenue cutter Jeff Davis disembarks a detachment of troops to supervise the disposition of supplies to the Indians. In August, Growler arrives with first cargo of annuity goods promised by the treaty. The following month goods are unloaded and distributed to approximately 2,300 Indian people.
1861 Snohomish County is created.
1863 Father Chirouse opens a new school on the Tulalip Reservation.
1868 Sisters of Charity of Montreal begin the education of Indian girls on the Tulalip Reservation.
1869 Father Chirouse receives a contract with U.S. Government to support the Tulalip Mission School of St. Anne.
1875 Congress extends the homestead laws to Indians willing to abandon their tribal affiliation.
1875 Canning process improves and a large commercial fishery begins to develop.
1878 Oblate fathers lease Tulalip Mission School and the U.S. Government transfers boys to Sisters of Charity school in the same location.
1883 John Slocum founds the Indian Shaker Church near Olympia, a form of religion that some Tulalip people will join.
1884 Allotment of Tulalip Reservation begins.
1887 Congress passes the General Allotment Act, also called the Dawes Severalty Act, which allots land on reservations to individual Indians. Remaining reservation lands are then sold. The Tulalip Reservation will be completely allotted to tribal members.
1889 Washington becomes a state.
1891 Seattle and Montana Railway is completed through Marysville. This rail service is the first in the vicinity of the Tulalip Reservation.
1896 Congress objects to federal support of sectarian schools and reduces financial support to the Tulalip Mission School. The Catholic Bureau of Indian Missions increases its contributions to the boarding school on the Tulalip Reservation.
1900 Government assumes possession of school buildings and begins conducting its own school.
1901 Position of Tulalip Indian agent abolished in favor of a school superintendent. The first superintendent is Dr. Charles M. Buchanan.
1902 A new school is built on Tulalip Reservation, called the Tulalip Indian Boarding School.
1915 A Tulalip Indian is jailed for hunting on contested reservation land. Buchanan writes to Washington State Legislature urging recognition of Indians’ treaty rights.
1920 Dr. Buchanan serves until his death.
1912 First Tulalip Treaty Days celebration is held through the efforts of William Shelton to preserve the songs and dances.
1916 Destruction of fish habitat begins through logging, dredging, agriculture, industry and the creation of dams, sewage systems and housing developments.
1924 Indian Citizenship Act passed by Congress. Indians become citizens and can now vote.
1924 Steelhead becomes a game fish.
1928 The Problem of Indian Administration, also called the Meriam Report, is presented and is highly critical of U.S. Indian policy and urges reforms. Improvement in Indian welfare follows.
1930 Beginning of fish ladders being installed on dams.
1933 Steelhead becomes a sport fish.
1934 Indian Reorganization Act is passed by Congress, enabling tribes to organize in local self government and elect leaders.
1935 Indians of the Tulalip Reservation write a constitution and vote to approve it.
1936 The secretary of the Interior approves the Tulalip Constitution, and Tulalips elect their first Board of Directors.
1939 Tulalips begin to lease land for homes on Tulalip Bay.
1946 Congress creates Indian Claims Commission to settle disputes between Indians and the Federal Government.
1950 Tulalip Agency of the BIA is moved from Tulalip Reservation and the new Western Agency is located in Everett, Washington.
1968 Puyallup Tribes v. Washington Department of Game (U.S. Supreme Court) allows the state to regulate Indian fishing for conservation purposes.
1973 Washington Department of Game v. Puyallup (U.S. Supreme Court) gives Indians the right to fish steelhead.
1974 U.S. v. Washington State (the Boldt decision) gives Washington Indian Tribes the right to co-manage fishing resources and take 50 percent of the harvestable fish.
1975 The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act is passed, allowing Tribes to assume responsibilities formerly reserved to the BIA.
1978 The American Indian Religious Freedom Act passed, which protects the traditional religious practices of Native Americans.
1979 U.S. Supreme Court upholds the 1974 decision of U.S. v. Washington (the Boldt decision).
1979 Tulalip revives the First Salmon Ceremony, which continues to be held annually.
1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty signed between the United States and Canada.
1985 Puget Sound Salmon Management Plan adopted by the Washington Department of Fisheries and the Indian Tribes with the Puget Sound Region.
1985 Puget Sound Water Quality Authority is created by Gov. Booth Gardner, with Tribal representatives being appointed to it.
1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act passed by U.S. Congress.