The United States Indian Industrial Training School opened here on September 17, 1884. The school was originally established to forcibly assimilate Tribal children into mainstream America. The United States wanted to solve the “Indian Problem” and viewed education as the fastest and most complete means of achieving that end. Fifteen tribal children were initially brought to Haskell by the US government as part of a feasibility test, where they were required to stay for a minimum of one four-year term. Most children ended up being required to remain for three or four terms. (12-16 years.)
Early photographs of Haskell students show children as young as three or four having been removed from their families.
During their terms, the children were forbidden from returning home or having any family contact. Upon arrival children were removed from the train, and thus the beginning of their dramatically altered lives. Each was immediately stripped of all traditional clothing and belongings. Their hair, whether male or female, was cut into a short military-style crew cut. To these children, cutting ones’ hair would have been a mourning practice and a sign of significant trauma, such as the loss of a close relative.
Educational instruction was provided from grades one through five with special emphasis placed upon agricultural training. In an effort to provide income for the school, the crops raised by the students of the school were all sold with severe punishment administered to any child found to be stealing the produce meant for sale.
They were strictly forbidden from speaking their tribal language, praying and practicing any spiritual beliefs or cultural norms, and were expected to attend church services and encouraged to convert to Christianity.
There were severe physical and emotional consequences applied to the children for failing to abide by these new rules. They were often subjected to inadequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Later, in the period from 1910-1933, they would have been incarcerated in the Haskell jail, but prior to its construction, fruit storage cellars were used to punish students.
In 1887, the school’s name was changed to Haskell Institute in honor of Dudley C. Haskell, who endeavored to bring the school to Lawrence.
Dudley C. Haskell (1842-1883) was a member of the Kansas House of Representatives in 1872, 1875 and 1876, serving as Speaker of the House in 1876. Haskell was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1876, serving from 1877 until his death in Washington, D.C. on December 16, 1883.
He served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs from 1881 until his death.
Although the school was initially advertised as a specialized vocational school designed to provide domestic training and farm skills, due to underfunding, educational goals had become secondary by this point and the students spent a majority of their time laboring to keep the school operational. They did so in a number of ways, growing and selling produce, as previously described, wagon and harness making, shoe making, blacksmithing, dress making, tailoring. Additionally, student labor was used in construction projects around the campus and in the maintenance of the buildings.
By 1894 there were 606 Native students enrolled at Haskell representing 36 states. Around this time, an even stricter, military-like system was introduced and applied to all aspects of their daily lives to break any tribal associations that may have been forming.
At this time Haskell Institute expanded its academics to include education through high school and the Commercial Department taught the first typing class in Kansas, they were also beginning to train students to become teachers.
In 1904 the Haskell band and football team, football having been introduced in 1900, were progressing exceptionally well. The Haskell sports teams became renowned across the country, as did the Haskell Institute band.
Haskell Institute's band was exceptionally well-known having performed at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the 1905 World's Fair in St. Louis.
1926 saw the dedication of the football stadium which was the first lighted stadium in the Midwest. The money used to build both the stadium and the Arch was solely donated by American Indian people, among these being Charles Curtis, who later went on to become Vice President of the United States.
This event, attracting over 200,000 visitors to the Haskell campus over the course of three days, remains the largest held in the history of Lawrence, Kansas.
In 1927 Haskell began to offer post-high school courses, although the military system was still in effect, the student seized any opportunity they could find to build inter-tribal alliances which provided them with the emotional, physical, and psychological support they needed to survive while at Haskell.
For several years Haskell was the only government-funded school for Native Americans to offer a full four-year high school course of study.
In 1928, the Meriam Report noted that infectious disease was often widespread at residential schools due to insufficient funding for meals providing good nutrition, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, and students weakened by overwork. This report justified the complaints of the inhumane treatment of the students that Haskell was entrusted to care for, but fell upon deaf ears when it reached Washington.
A turning point for Haskell, and for Indian Education, came in 1933 when Dr. Henry Roe Cloud became the first Native American Superintendent of Haskell Institute. He was the first Native American graduate of Yale University and transformed Haskell’s environment from militaristic assimilation to one of re-organization, and finally to the emergence of an Indigenous voice. Students began to excel beyond the expectations of administration as did the school itself.
Dr. Henry Roe Cloud (1884-1950) was a Winnebago from Nebraska, orphaned at a young age, Cloud was educated in a series of government schools. He was the first full-blood Native American to attend Yale University. He graduated with a bachelor of arts (B.A.) in psychology and philosophy from Yale College in 1910 and earned a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in anthropology from Yale University in 1914. While an undergraduate, Cloud attended a lecture by the missionary, Mary Wickham Roe, a member of a prominent family involved in evangelical Christian mission work. He established a close relationship with her and her husband, Reverend Dr. Walter C. Roe.
The couple adopted him, and he took their surname as his middle name.
His career with the Office of Indian Affairs focused on the efforts to establish modern schools for Native American youth. He became superintendent of the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1933. In 1947, he was appointed the Superintendent of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. "In 1948, he was appointed regional representative for the Grande Ronde and Siletz Indian Agencies in Oregon. From 1910-1911 he studied sociology at Oberlin College. He attended Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, where he earned a bachelor of divinity degree and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1913. He returned to school and received a doctorate of divinity from Emporia College, Kansas in 1932. In 1933 he was appointed Superintendent of Haskell Institute.
Under Dr. Cloud’s administration, Haskell began to stress the importance of teaching traditional forms of art and skills as early as 1934, changes begin to emerge within the vocational and technical training offered as part of its curriculum by 1935. Various clubs, activities, and societies began to form and the students rapidly achieved academic excellence. Tribal students now attended Haskell willingly. During this period, the agricultural training program, which had existed since the school’s founding in 1884, was discontinued and the school’s farmland leased to local farmers.
This progressive change in administration allowed Haskell to begin to incorporate a trade school teaching students more advanced trades, such as: printing, nursing, business and other vocational trades like electrical work and refrigeration, in addition to receiving a high school diploma.
By 1942, just nine short years after Dr. Cloud’s appointment as superintendent, there was a marked increase in Haskell graduates using their education to return as staff and faculty.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s and a number of expansive building projects and at least one fire resulted in the unfortunate loss of some of Haskell’s oldest and most historic structures. Currently the Hiawatha Hall, Kiva Hall, and the Dairy Barn are the three oldest remaining structures.
In 1965, Haskell Institute graduated the last of its high school students.
In 1970, it was accredited as Haskell Indian Junior College, offering only college-level courses.
As a junior college, Haskell offered associate’s degrees in the fields of: Business, Nursing, American Indian Studies, and Printing. Additionally, students had to option to pursue vocational training in eleven different fields.
Continuing with its educational progression, in 1993, Haskell Indian Junior College became accredited as a University and proudly changed its name to Haskell Indian Nations University.
In 1998, Haskell Indian Nations University graduated its first baccalaureate degree majors in Elementary Education and has expanded its degree offerings to include baccalaureate degree programs in Indigenous and American Indian Studies, Elementary Education, Business, and Environmental Science as well as associate’s degrees in Art, Creative Writing, Literature, Paraprofessional Education, Social Work, Speech Communications, Written Communications, Theatre, Community Health, Natural Resources, Natural Science, and Resource and Fitness Management.
The Haskell Cultural Center and Museum Opened on September 14, 2002. It is constructed of cypress logs donated by B. Keeton of Florida. For the groundbreaking ceremonies of the Cultural Center, Haskell was honored to host a delegation of Seminole elders who made the journey from Florida in order to bless the site of the Cultural Center as well as the donated lumber.
For more information on programs or courses of study offered at Haskell, please visit the university's website at www.haskell.edu.