Federal Government Schools

Father John Roberts	 and Shoshone Agency Boarding School Students, Fremont Co., 1906
Father John Roberts and Shoshone Agency
Boarding School Students, Fremont Co.,
1906

Photo: Fort Washakie
In addition to guiding the educational efforts of the states and funding specific educational programs to be carried out by states or local school districts, the federal government built and ran its own schools. Schools were established by the U.S. military at the early Wyoming forts. From 1871 to 1960, the federal government also built and operated schools on Indian reservations and internment camps in Wyoming.

Indian Schools

Schools for Indian students were often established, built, and operated by religious organizations, with support from the federal government. Indian schools in Wyoming were all established on the Wind River Reservation north of Lander, where Shoshone Indians have resided since 1868 and Arapaho since 1877. Although it has been documented that school was first held on the reservation in 1871, the first known building constructed as a school was the one-and-one-half story adobe building constructed in 1884 on Trout Creek, southwest of Fort Washakie. Father John Roberts was the first superintendent. This government boarding school, named the Wind River Industrial School for Indian Children, enrolled about fifty Shoshone and Arapaho boys and girls the first year. A new government boarding school (Wind River Industrial School for Indian Children) was built in 1892 and the former Trout Creek adobe government boarding school building was used as an agency office until it and many other agency buildings were destroyed by fire in 1906. In 1940 the Fort Washakie Government School (Wind River Government Boarding School) changed to a day school, and in 1955 its lands and buildings were transferred to Fremont County School District #21. At this time, the school building was torn down and replaced with a new school building, Fort Washakie Elementary School, which is operating today.

Wind River Industrial School for Indian Children, Fremont Co.
Wind River Industrial School for
Indian Children, Fremont Co.

Photo: Wyoming State Archives, Department of State
Parks and Cultural Resources, Photographer:
J.E. Stimson, 1903
School buildings were also constructed on the reservation by the Episcopal and Catholic churches. Father John Roberts of the Episcopal Diocese established "The Roberts Episcopal Mission Boarding School for Shoshone Girls" (also called the Shoshone Agency Boarding School) in 1887. Chief Washakie of the Shoshone Indians donated land for the Shoshone Agency Boarding School and a two-story building was constructed of bricks made on the grounds of the mission. The original building included the dormitory and chapel; the classroom was added later. To combat homesickness, a circular cabin of logs in the fashion of a tipi was built in the mission yard, and the girls were allowed to practice their native songs and dances in the tipi during the hour between supper and evening prayers. The school operated for 55 years, until 1945, and the building, which is still standing, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

The Roberts Episcopal Mission Boarding 	School for Shoshone Girls, Fremont Co.
The Roberts Episcopal Mission Boarding
School for Shoshone Girls, Fremont Co.

Photo:State Historic Preservation Office
Photographer: Mark Junge, 1972
Between 1910 and 1917 Rev. Roberts constructed the new St. Michael’s Mission and Arapaho school. The mission buildings were placed in a circle: the church, Our Father's House (the 1900 log Episcopal Church which was moved to the new mission grounds in 1920), a two-story boys’ dormitory and dining room, a two-story school building, and several cottages where groups of girls lived. Today there are eleven buildings remaining on the site; the school burned down in 1953, and the boy's dormitory burned down in 1956. St. Michael’s Mission was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.


St. Michael's Mission, Fremont Co.
St. Michael's Mission, Fremont Co.
Photo:State Historic Preservation Office
In 1884, Father John J. Jutz, a Jesuit priest, began building a mission house at St. Stephens, with timber hauled from the mountains 35 miles away and bricks made by hand on site. Soon after the mission house was completed, a generous gift was received to help finance the construction of a convent, completed in 1888. It was a large three story brick building with a basement where the earliest students boarded and attended school. In 1975, almost one hundred years after the school was established at St. Stephens, the mission administration was forced by lack of funds to cease operations, and control of the facility was transferred to the St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association, a local Native American corporation. The convent building is still standing and the school is now a K-12 school that blends academics with pride and respect for Native culture.
St. Stephens Convent and Boarding School, Fremont Co.
St. Stephens Convent and Boarding School,
Fremont Co.

Photo:State Historic Preservation Office
Photographer: Richard Alessandro, 1983

Heart Mountain High School Students, Park Co., c. 1943
Heart Mountain High School Students,
Park Co., c. 1943

Photo: Clayton Fraser Collection

Internment Camp Schools

On December 7, 1941, the United States was surprised by the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire. Within two months of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave the Army power to uproot both aliens and citizens of Japanese descent from their homes, for the professed purpose of wartime necessity. The federal government tried to locate sites in the interior of the country for open-gated resettlement communities, but state governments resisted and instead demanded incarceration in concentration camps with guard towers and barbed wire. These camps were constructed to include barracks for the internees, kitchens, recreation centers, schools, health centers, and other buildings needed for their incarceration. Internees were held until January 2, 1945, when they were released to find homes and jobs and try to rebuild their lives.

Arriving at Heart Mountain, Park Co., c. 1943
Arriving at Heart Mountain, Park Co., c. 1943
Photo: Wyoming State Archives, Department of
State Parks and Cultural Resources
On August 12, 1942, the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Park County, Wyoming, received its first Japanese-Americans internees. Heart Mountain became Wyoming’s third largest city with nearly 14,000 internees in its tar-paper barracks surrounded by barbed-wire enclosures. Internment camp schools were run by the federal government, which hired the principals and teachers. Classes at Heart Mountain were conducted starting in October, 1942 in six-room barracks, with each room heated by a coal stove and lighted by a single light fixture hanging from the exposed rafters. Initially there were five elementary schools at Heart Mountain, but these were eventually consolidated into two schools, Lincoln and Washington Schools. A new high school building was completed on May 27, 1943, and was constructed for the most part by the internees themselves. The one-story, E-shaped building was frame construction sheathed with gray wallboard, with an interior finished in plywood and celotex. The building housed 39 classrooms, a library, a home economics room, a machine shop, a wood shop and a combination auditorium/gymnasium which seated 700 for basketball games and 1,100 for stage productions.

Heart Mountain School's Concrete Vault
Heart Mountain School's Concrete Vault
Photo: State Historic Preservation Office
Most of the land at the former Heart Mountain Relocation Center is now under cultivation, and few buildings remain. However, a concrete records vault believed to be part of the former high school still stands on private land. A portion of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it is a National Historic Landmark. Development of an interpretive center through the Heart Mountain Foundation is underway.
Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources