March 3, 1819. U.S. Congress passes the Civilization Fund Act to provide “against the further decline and final extinction of the Indian tribes.” It tasks “persons of good moral character” to instruct Native Americans “in the mode of agriculture suited to their situation; and for teaching their children in reading, writing and arithmetic.”
Jan. 22, 1855. The Treaty of Point Elliott, signed at what is now Mukilteo, cedes Native ancestral lands to the United States and creates reservations. Among promises to the tribes: a physician, hunting and fishing rights, and an “agricultural and industrial school, to be free to children of the said tribes and bands.”
1857. Chirouse asks permission of the Snohomish chief, Ns’ski-oos, to live among the tribes. He’s given a spot to build a house near the mouth of Quil Ceda Creek, where he establishes the first mission school. The campus moves the following year, according to local historian Les Parks.
Father Eugene Casimir Chirouse. (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)
1866. Chirouse’s pupils decrease from 48 to 35. He writes: “Sickness has prevailed to a very great extent among the Indians of the Sound and I am sorry to say that my pupils have suffered much more than heretofore. … As there is no doctor on the reservation, they still continue to apply to me for medicine, believing my stock inexhaustible.”
Soon after Father Eugene Chirouse started a school for boys on Tulalip Bay, the Sisters of Providence opened a school for girls. Pictured here in an undated photo, two nuns stand with over two dozen students on the steps of their Tulalip mission. (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)
1879. The Carlisle Indian Industrial School opens in Pennsylvania, forcing students to speak English and adopt the culture of settlers. Its founder’s famous motto is to “kill the Indian” and “save the Man.”
1881.A report from the Bureau of Indian Affairs declares: “The Indian is evidently destined to live as long as the white race, or until he becomes absorbed and assimilated with his pale brethren. … The only alternative left is to fit him by education for civilized life.”
1900. The federal government begins running the boarding school at Tulalip, ushering in an era of greater cultural repression. Meanwhile, smallpox, pneumonia and tuberculosis outbreaks come in waves, claiming many lives.
Charles Milton Buchanan arrived in Tulalip in 1894, first serving as the reservation’s sole physician. He became the first superintendent of the Tulalip Indian School. He served as a federal liaison until his death in 1920. (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)
1928.The Meriam Report, or “The Problem of Indian Administration,” details rampant abuses in boarding schools, as well as “deplorable health conditions,” “crowded dormitories” and the “almost complete negation of normal family life.”
1932. The federal Tulalip Indian School closes.
Harriette Shelton Dover, a survivor of the federal boarding school for Indigenous children in Tulalip, was credited with restoring the annual Salmon Ceremony and fighting for fishing rights. (Courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center)
May 2022. A year after launching an official inquiry into the history boarding schools, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announces the initial findings in a 106-page report. A U.S. House committee hears testimony from Deborah Parker, a descendent of Tulalip boarding school survivors, and Matthew War Bonnet, a South Dakota boarding school survivor living in Snohomish.
Federal Indian boarding school sites identified in Washington. (U.S. Department of the Interior)