Watchlist: ‘The Forest Grove Indian Training School, 1880 – 1885’

05.31.2022 Kamiah Koch Watchlist


By Kamiah Koch

Social media/digital journalist

An article in this edition of Smoke Signals called “Indian boarding school report includes Grand Ronde location” has a companion video on our YouTube channel where we visit three federal Indian boarding school sites in Oregon listed in the Department of Interior’s report.

In the video, Smoke Signals visited Chemawa Indian School, the site of the Forest Grove Indian Training School and the Grand Ronde Boarding School.

During the Forest Grove Indian Training School portion of that video, a clip from a video published by Pacific University’s magazine in 2019 is used. Pacific University is located in Forest Grove and its Archives and Special Collections Librarian Eva Guggemos compares a before-and-after photo of Native children who attended the Indian boarding school.

The rest of the six-minute Forest Grove Indian Training School video on Pacific University’s YouTube channel gives an in-depth perspective on the history of the boarding school, explaining the documentation of the school and the traumas that occurred there.

Guggemos narrates the video and explains that the Forest Grove Indian Training School opened in 1880 “to intentionally break students’ relationships with their Tribes and mix them with other students so it would be harder for them to maintain their own languages and customs.”

Using historical images, the video shows federal Indian boarding schools followed the template set by Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Guggemos says the Forest Grove Indian Training School was the second off-Reservation boarding school in the country after Carlisle.

“As time went on they would go to Tribes with very young children who might only be 7 or 8 years old and then tell the parents they needed to send their children here,” Guggemos says in the video. “I don’t think the parents felt they had a choice.”

According to Guggemos, a lot of the photos from Pacific University’s special collections library used in the video were most likely staged to demonstrate the school was “civilizing” Native students.

“We have a few scattered pieces of evidence pointing toward abuse at the school,” she says. “One student was actually one of the most prominent graduates of the school. He wrote a letter saying that he remembers the second superintendent hitting and kicking the students to keep them in line. In my opinion that probably was the tip of the iceberg.”

If you would like to watch the full video on the Forest Grove Indian Training School, you can visit it at or find it linked on the Smoke Signals “Watchlist” playlist on the Smoke Signals YouTube channel.