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The History & Evolution of the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center

Telling the Authentic History 

The Phoenix Indian Industrial School was established in 1891, operating as a boarding school for American Indian children by the Bureau of Indian Affairs up until 1990. Across its 99 years of operation, the mission of the school was to educate thousands of Native American children, though we know in its early operation, much of their education involved cutting of cultural ties and forced assimilation to a military lifestyle. In fact, Indian Commissioner Thomas Morgan speaking at the establishment of the school in 1891 said, "it's cheaper to educate Indians than to kill them." (Lindauer, 1998). 

Though Native American students experienced difficult situations throughout the school's history, many students had success here and have become pillars and leaders in our community today.

The elementary building, which was completed and opened in the early 1930’s, later converted into a music building during the school's transition; this is where the famous Phoenix Indian School band rehearsed. The band played at many historic occasions in the community, including Arizona’s Statehood celebration in February 14th, 1912.

Located at the corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road, much of this site was transferred to the City of Phoenix from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1990, which the city used to create Steele Indian School Park. Since its closing, the COP saved three historic buildings and placed them on the National Register of Historic Places. One of those historic buildings, the former grammar school building, is the building Native American Connections and Phoenix Indian Center (PIC) have renovated, and have transformed it into the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center (PISVC). 

Listen to our NPR feature

 Check out this interview with Native American Connections' former CEO, Diana Yazzie-Devine, describing the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center collaboration.

Native American Connections and partners signed a Letter of Understanding with the City of Phoenix to operate the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center. We appreciate LISC Phoenix for recognizing the historic significance of and investing in this historic project and building.

We encourage all to schedule a visit to the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center

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