The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) will digitize 20,000 archival pages related to Quaker-operated Indian boarding schools. NABS was awarded a grant of $124,311 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to work with Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College and Quaker & Special Collections at Haverford College.
Documents related to Quaker-operated Indian boarding schools have been largely understudied, as they exist in scattered collections with limited access. NABS is making these important histories readily available to scholars and non-specialists alike by housing the digital records in a public database.
“We are grateful to Swarthmore and Haverford for their willingness to partner with us as we try to better understand this history,” said Stephen R. Curley (Diné), Director of Digital Archives for NABS. “This partnership is unique and necessary, and we hope it creates more opportunities in the future. It is going to take all communities working together to reveal the truth about Indian boarding schools.”
In fall 2023, NABS, Swarthmore, and Haverford will scan 20,000 pages of enrollment papers, financial information, correspondence, administrative records, and photographs. The records from Swarthmore and Haverford, ranging from 1852-1945, relate to at least nine Quaker -operated Indian boarding schools that were located in Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
Following the scanning process, a community information session will be held with Tribal communities to discuss the project findings. The project will also include the production of a video that shares oral histories from boarding school survivors, their families, and others.
In spring 2024, the 20,000 digitized records will be made publicly available on a database called the National Indian Boarding School Digital Archive (NIBSDA), which NABS will launch later this year.
“I hope this partnership opens the door for more discussion and understanding about religious institutions’ role in the operation of Indian boarding schools,” said Celia Caust-Ellenbogen, Associate Curator for Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. “These records can inform us about the conditions in which Native students lived, how Quaker institutions were financed through the federal government, and reveal the motivations behind U.S. assimilation policy design.”
“The digitization of these collections will yield new research and narratives about the underexamined history of Quaker-operated Indian boarding schools,” said Sarah Horowitz, Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts and Head of Quaker & Special Collections at Haverford College. “These records reveal storied experiences and information that is too often absent from the public record, but that are increasingly sought by historians of Native American and American history.”