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04.08.2013 admin
On Crawford Street lies the historic site of the American Indian Industrial Boarding School that was in operation from 1893-1934. Marcella Hadden, public relations of the Saginaw Chippewas Tribe reflects on an old picture of the American Indian Industrial Boarding School, and Craig Graveratte, member of the Saginaw Chippewas Tribe, listens to Hadden speak about the children in the photo in 1893, one being Craig’s grandmother. The first of 11 buildings that would make up the Mount Pleasant American Indian Industrial Boarding School, cornerstone was placed October 18, 1892 in front of a crowd of over 2,000 people from Michigan. Craig Gravette, a member of the Saginaw Chippewas Tribe studying the site’s environmental impact, embraces a metal link on the brick wall that was used to chain the children up during the day where they were left for hours and would engrave their initials on the wall.
A driveway leads up to an old brick garage apart of what was once the Mount Pleasant American Indian Industrial Boarding School taken on Oct.
In the back of one of the dormatory buildings, stairs lead up to a back door with an old bent circulating water sign. Above reads a sign on the gym doors “Unless you wear gym shoes, please KEEP OFF,” as Craig Gravette, a Saginaw Chippewas Indian Tribe member studying the site’s environmental impact, walks by in the reflection of the gym window. Charmaine Shawana, a member of the tribal council and MIIBS committee member walks down the sidewalk leading from the main boarding school building towards the covered pond that was once operational as a reflection pond.
On the outside of one of the American Indian Industrial Boarding School buildings stands a door with a missing knob looking into a room with many opened white cabinets and dishovelved drawers. Marcella Hadden, public relations manager at the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe did a walk through of the American Indian Industrial Boarding School on Feb. Because of little documentation, there is no way to determine what form of abuses took place during the boarding school's time in operation.
Graveratte said knowing about the American Indian Boarding School era, and the abuses committed in the schools, allowed him to begin to forgive his grandmother for neglect as he grew up. About 200 undocumented deaths might have taken place while the school was open, Shawana said. With what has been taught by generations since the boarding school era, he hopes to educate today's children about the past to rebuild a culture that was lost. Referring to the new generation of Native American children, learning their traditional language and customs from birth, Shawana called the youngsters "The Eighth Fire," for the last stage of religious enlightenment in her tribe's spiritual teachings.
Shawana was optimistic the Native American community finally has the resources to begin rebuilding their culture and society, and begin the path out of the shadows of the boarding school's ominous buildings.
The tribe owns 13 acres surrounding the school, including The Mission Creek Cemetery on Bamber Street, where at least two students are buried in aging, marked graves.


On the MIIBS committee, Wekwert is hoping to get the property registered federally as a historical site.
While the committee and Tribal Operations as a whole have struggled to gain funding, the buildings sit as a reminder of the tribe's past, and a continued challenge to move on.
Explaining substance abuse and domestic violence is common among Native Americans today, Graveratte attributed his people's problems to the boarding school era’s destruction of the American Indian family. Pego said he worked with several Native Americans in the area suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Pego also referred to domestic violence, especially toward women in the Native American community, as another problem born out of the boarding schools. Located minutes from CMU's campus on Crawford Road, the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School once forcibly housed up to 300 students per year from 1893 to 1934. After his first boarding school was considered a success, Pratt received further funding from Congress to branch out, causing the boarding school era to take full form by the 1900s, with at least 25 schools in up to 15 states. While boys were taught to become farmers and welders, the girls were taught to be cooks and maids. Commissioned by the Institute for Government Research, the report criticized the poor conditions on reservations and in the boarding schools themselves.
The Mount Pleasant boarding school, along with others across the nation, was subsequently closed in 1934.
From there it became the Michigan Home and Training School, institutionalizing men and boys suffering from mental illness. Made to be more home-like and less like an institution, the facility was active until budget troubles caused it to shut down in 2009.
In 2010, the city of Mount Pleasant acquired the property and offered it to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe for $1, and Tribal Operations made its first site visit.
Native elders have said the faces of deceased students have mysteriously appeared to them in the dirty and broken windows of the school. To the tribe members willing to visit the broken, desolate buildings, the ominous rooms and halls still have their own stories to tell. Paint might be chipping off the walls, and ceilings droop under years of water damage, but under a heavy coat of dust and years of indifference, the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School still holds a deep connection with the history and identity of the first Americans. Native American childeren were either forcibly taken from their homes or sent here under the idea that they would be getting an education.


The names of students are desperately etched into the brick as they were chained to them, to suffer the punishment of the elements. Taken forcibly from their homes, from 1893 to 1934, Native American children were made to work in the fields and were stripped of their customs and language.
His grandmother wanted the building destroyed, but some hope to preserve the area to continue building awareness for a time in America's history largely forgotten.
All the tribal council and family of the remaining survivors have are stories from the past. CMU archaeology students began studying at a field school on the property last summer, taking soil samples and searching for students' remains.
She said this could provide federally funding for development, which may expand the property to where more remains could be buried. He worried the tenuous relationship between his mother and grandmother was fueled by the abuses the elder suffered at the boarding school. He said the widespread substance abuse is often due to the missing culture the boarding school era removed. They were further assimilated to wear military-style uniforms and kept to a strict regiment of menial labor. In 1928, the Meriam Report, officially known as "The Problem with Indian Administration," began to chip away at government support for the boarding school initiatives.
It was renamed the Mount Pleasant State Home in 1946, and, after extensive renovations in the 1970s, it was called the Mount Pleasant Regional Center for Developmental Disabilities.
Ancestral spirits have also been seen in the aging bark of a large pair of trees near the entrance. She said many students died when they were being sent back home due to illness from consumption, malnutrition or tuberculosis.



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