“Returning Home: The Art and Poetry of Intermountain Indian School, 1951-1984” was recently installed at Merrill-Cazier Library. The exhibit displays works created by young Native American students during their time at Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City. The exhibit was inspired by the book titled “Returning Home: Diné Creative Works from the Intermountain Indian School.”
“‘Returning Home’ is a cyclical journey that goes on and on, following Diné as they have traveled, returned home, and continue their movement through time and generations. This exhibit and accompanying book primarily serve Diné former boarding school students and their respective families and communities, while educating a wide public of their journeys, experiences and voices,” coauthor and exhibit curator Farina King said.
King, Michael Taylor and James Swensen collaborated on both the book and exhibit in hopes of making these student voices, in their arts and writing, accessible to Diné families, communities and the general public.
“The underlying argument of ‘Returning Home’ is that the creative works of Native American boarding school students, specifically those of Diné students at the Intermountain Indian School (1950-1984), present the complex agency and ability of Indigenous youth to maintain cultural continuity within colonial spaces designed to separate Native children from their home communities and cultures,” King said.
While King, Taylor and Swensen curated the exhibit, many of the creative works are housed at USU Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives.
“This exhibit has come together because of precious relationships with Intermountain alumni and various supporters that carried Diné boarding school creative works and voices to the Navajo Nation, Diné communities, and the broader public,” King said. “With the generous support of the Charles Redd Center and the Utah Humanities along with many other partners and sponsors, ‘Returning Home’ utilizes archival materials housed at Utah State University, as well as material donated by surviving Intermountain students and teachers throughout Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.”
“Returning Home” has travelled from northern Utah to the Navajo Nation Museum and Diné Bikéyah (Navajo land), before returning to USU.
“It is our hope that this exhibit and related work enters the curriculum of primary through post-secondary programs and supports Diné-specific education and cultural revitalization programs,” King said. “I also hope that this exhibit inspires people to teach, learn and support efforts of understanding, reconciling and healing from Native American boarding schools, especially the Intermountain Indian School that was one of the largest federal Native American boarding schools in the United States. Intermountain Indian School alumni are still here, and we need to support them, their families, and works such as the Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.”
Displaying the creative works of the students who attended Intermountain Indian School was an exceptionally important project for King.
“As a Diné woman who has family, including my own father, that attended American Indian boarding schools during the late twentieth century, this exhibit represents my relatives and ancestors who persevered through difficult journeys and struggles. Because of these intergenerational ties, my posterity and I exist today as Diné,” King said. “We also remember, honor and bring home the boarding school students who did not survive through their art, poetry and stories.”
“Returning Home” will be on display on the lower level of the Merrill-Cazier Library until March 25. Two large murals (“Sunset” by artist T.H. Mike and “Returning Home” by artist T. Draper) are also on display at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art.
USU Land Acknowledgment Statement
We recognize that Utah State University in Logan resides on the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands in the Sihivigoi (Willow Valley) of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. The university resides on land ceded in the 1863 Treaty at Fort Bridger and other lands within our state. Today we recognize Utah’s eight federally recognized Native nations, historic Indigenous communities in Utah, Indigenous individuals and communities past and present. In offering this land acknowledgment, we affirm Indigenous sovereignty, history, and experiences.” —This statement is provided with permission for use by Darren Parry, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone.
Comments and questions regarding this article may be directed to the contact person listed on this page.