Teller School, Grand Junction.

Federal Indian Boarding School History

The history of federal Indian education policy is deep and troubling. For 250 years the United States has used education to assimilate Native children and deny them access to their heritage, their culture, and their families. The resources below all explore various aspects of that history and some of the research efforts in Colorado.

While these resources attempt to expand far and wide, it is not exhaustive. It is also dynamic and we will continue to add as new resources are revealed and created. 

We hope you will use these materials for yourself, to build community conversations, in classrooms, for teachers and mentors, and to guide how we think about this important history. To help access these materials, please visit our Research Center Wednesday - Saturday, 10:00 A.M. - 3:00 P.M. for a dedicated Reading Room space or visit the links below.

Tribal Consultation History for Colorado Boarding School Efforts

Consultation History and Key Moments for the Boarding School Effort to Date

History Colorado’s Involvement

On May 24, 2022, the Federal Indian Boarding School Research Program Act (HB 22-1327) was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis. HB 22-1327 directed History Colorado to investigate the lived experiences of students at the one-time federal Native American boarding school in Hesperus, Colorado, also referred to as the Fort Lewis Indian Boarding School; as well as to identify potential burial places of students who perished while attending the school.

History Colorado’s efforts were led by State Archeologist Dr. Holly Norton, who directed a team of researchers and worked in close consultation with the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs (CCIA) to better understand the lasting impacts of the Federal Indian Boarding School Program. On June 30, 2023, Dr. Norton’s final report was delivered to the CCIA, and an executive summary of History Colorado’s research was made publicly available on September 1, 2023. The final report and a set of supporting resources was made publicly available on October 3, 2023.

Additionally, History Colorado’s State Historical Fund awarded a grant to the Colorado Department of Human Services to investigate the History of the Grand Junction Indian School.

History Colorado values input from Tribal representatives, community organizations, descendants of those impacted, and community members and created this form as an avenue for them to submit feedback, comments and suggestions.


August 12, 2022: History Colorado Appointed to Lead Research into the History of Indian Boarding Schools in Colorado

September 8, 2022: History Colorado Reports to Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs on Progress of Native American Boarding School Research

December 15, 2022: History Colorado Issues Second Progress Report to Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs on House Bill 22-1327 Research


March 16, 2023: History Colorado Issues Third Progress Report to Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs on House Bill 22-1327 Research

June 1, 2023: History Colorado Issues Fourth Progress Report to Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs on House Bill 22-1327 Research

September 1, 2023: History Colorado Issues Executive Summary of Federal Indian Boarding Schools Research

October 3, 2023: History Colorado Publicly Releases Final Report from Federal Indian Boarding Schools Research

Website Resources

Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs

Video Resources

Home From School: The Children of Carlisle

Fort Lewis College statement on Kamloops Residential Indian School

For Information on Ground Penetrating Radar

National Cooperative Highway Research Program | 2018 NCHRP 25-25, Task 98: Practical Guide for Developing Effective Scopes of Work for the Geophysical Investigation of Cemeteries. Manuscript prepared by WSP, Inc., and New South Associates, Inc., for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Standing Committee on the Environment, Washington, D.C. 

Small, Marsha, Farina King, and Preston McBride | 2021 Native American and Indigenous Protocols for Surveying Indian Boarding School Burial Sites. Unpublished manuscript.

Media Articles

The Durango Herald | Our View: Indian boarding school findings momentous to Southwest families. October 8, 2023.

Hernandez, Elizabeth | New report identifies student deaths linked to Colorado’s Native American boarding schools: ‘No child should ever die at school’. Greeley Tribune, October 4, 2023.

Huntington, Stewart | Colorado reports on boarding schools. Indian Country Today, October 5, 2023.

Kay, Jonathan | A Media Fueled Social Panic over Unmarked Graves. Quillette, July 22, 2022.

Levitt, Zach, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Simon Romero, and Tim Wallace | ‘War Against the Children’: The Native American Boarding School system- a decades-long effort to assimilate Indigenous people before they ever reached adulthood- robbed children of their culture, family bonds and sometimes their lives. New York Times, August 30, 2023.

Niigaan, Sinclair and Sean Carleton | Residential School Denialism is on the Rise. What to Know. The Tyee, June 20, 2023.

Nikos Rose, Karen | Sophia’s Story: Reclaiming An Orphan from an ‘Indian School’ Native Girl’s Remains Returned to Alaska After More Than a Century. August 30, 2021.

Simpson, Kevin | Colorado Boarding School, where Government sought to assimilate tribal students, listed as “most endangered” place. Colorado Sun, January 30, 2020.

Warner, Ryan | Colorado’s Indian boarding schools were places of hard labor and indoctrination. Colorado Public Radio, October 4, 2023.

History Colorado is committed to continued work with Tribal partners to ensure that we are aligned with both the law and spirit of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Learn more by clicking here.