From Native American Assimilation to Revitalization

Benedictine Indian Industrial Schools
Saint John’s Abbey and Saint Benedict’s Monastery

Saint John’s Abbey, in Collegeville, Minnesota, and Saint Benedict’s Monastery, in Saint Joseph, Minnesota, once operated government-funded Native American boarding schools. These boarding schools were part of a nation-wide effort to force assimilation through Indian family separation. The Order of St. Benedict operated these schools on the campuses of what are now Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, as well as two reservation-based boarding schools at White Earth and Red Lake, where children could only see their families on weekends.While families initially chose to enroll their children in these schools, the government eventually mandated that every Native family send their children to a school designed to force assimilation. Today, this legacy of injustice continues to affect Native nations. However, we believe it is possible to redress this injustice through collaborations with Native communities that acknowledge the work of redress is never finished. This exhibit showcases ongoing work to investigate our shared histories, and to document the revitalization of Native and Indigenous culture on our campuses. 


View a timeline of Indian school history at Saint John’s and Saint Benedict’s.

Learn more about Native American boarding schools:

Gunderson, D. (2019) “I’ve never told anyone: stories of life in Indian boarding schools.” Minnesota Public Radio (October 3, 2019).

Lajimodiere, D. (2016) "Native American Boarding Schools." MNopedia, Minnesota Historical Society.

Woolford, A. (2015). This benevolent experiment : Indigenous boarding schools, genocide, and redress in Canada and the United States. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Child, B. (1999). Boarding school seasons : American Indian families, 1900-1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.


From Native American Assimilation to Revitalization