Education beyond the mesas: Hopi student involvement at Sherman Institute

Matthew Thomas Gilbert
Dept. of History, University of California, Riverside
July, 2006


Within the context of Hopi culture, my research examines the various aspects of Hopi student involvement at Sherman Institute from 1902 to 1929. Sherman Institute, an off-reservation Indian boarding school in Riverside, California, plays a significant role in Hopi and American history. In the early twentieth century, government officials routinely forced Hopi students to attend off-reservation boarding schools in order to assimilate Hopis into "mainstream" white society. By indoctrinating Hopi pupils with new ideas and practices based on "white" convictions and values, education at Sherman Institute both incorporated and ran contrary to Hopi culture.

However, in spite of cultural tensions, Hopis made considerable advancements and contributions in both school and community. In academics, sports, agricultural, art, music and domestic and industrial training, Hopis excelled at the school and quickly adapted to a new and foreign environment that did not resemble their own. For many Hopis, their boarding school experience at Sherman held various layers of meaning. Like other Indian pupils who attended government schools in the early twentieth century, the Hopi experience at Sherman was neither entirely negative, nor completely positive. While this work exposes the cruel realities Hopis endured at Sherman, it also demonstrate positive consequences that resulted when Hopis attended the school and returned to the reservation with knowledge that contributed to their tribe and community.