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Home / Neighborhood / Riverside County / Documentary on Indian boarding schools to premiere in Riverside

Documentary on Indian boarding schools to premiere in Riverside

by Joe Taglieri
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A new documentary on American Indian boarding schools in Southern California is scheduled to premiere Saturday in Riverside.

“These Are Not ‘Stories’: American Indian Boarding Schools in Southern California” features the voices of eight former boarding school students and family members of students, as well as Sherman Indian Museum Curator Lorene Sisquoc, the museum announced. The accounts are not fictionalized tales — rather, documentary participants reveal the real-life experiences of students at American Indian boarding schools in the early 20th century.

Members of the Cahuilla culture that include the Mountain Cahuilla and Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of the Chemehuevi Reservation, Hopi, Hualapai Tribe, Salt River Pima/Maricopa and Tohono O’odham peoples shared their perspectives for this film project, according to the museum. 

“Interviews delve into the range of boarding school experiences, from the shameful and oppressive practices of early American Indian boarding schools to the more recent years when students enjoyed fulfilling and transformative educations,” according to the museum’s announcement. “The experiences recorded for this project will be preserved and shared for future generations.”

Three events have been planned to view the documentary. All are free and open to the public. 

The premiere is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Robert Levi Auditorium of the Sherman Indian High School, 9010 Magnolia Ave. in Riverside. The premiere will be followed by a question-and-answer session with University of California, Riverside, professor Clifford E. Trafzer who is of Wyandot ancestry and Sisquoc, whose lineage is Mountain Cahuilla and Fort Sill Apache, according to the museum.

Additional screenings are March 18, 11 a.m. at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert Campus Auditorium, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive; and March 25, 2 p.m. at The Box Riverside, 3635 Market St.

“The Museum of Riverside was a partner on the creation of this documentary with Sherman Indian Museum and Costo Foundation,” Museum of Riverside Curator Brenda Buller Focht said in an email to the Riverside Independent. “The Museum preserves the natural and cultural history of the region so this was a project that aligned with the Museum’s mission,” which is:

“As a center for learning, the Museum of Riverside interacts with the community to collect, preserve, explore and interpret the cultural and natural history of Riverside and its region.”

Funding was provided through a grant from the federal National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Humanities through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act in partnership with the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums, according to the Museum of Riverside, which received a $19,150 grant for a partnership with Sherman Indian High School. That ATALM grant was sourced through the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Native Institutions. 

“This grant program is intended to help Native cultural institutions recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and provide humanities programming to their communities,” according to the Museum of Riverside. “This project would not be possible without the partnerships of the Sherman Indian Museum and Costo Endowment of American Indian Affairs, University of California, Riverside.”

The Sherman Institute in 1901. | Photo courtesy of the Museum of Riverside

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