Idaho had six federal Native American boarding schools — here’s what we know about them

Idaho had six federal Native American boarding schools.
Here's what we know about them.

Carly Flandro

Federal Native American boarding schools were once scattered across the state, from south to north. 

Today, tribal members can usually point out past sites of boarding schools, and often know a family member who attended them. But beyond that, specific details become fuzzy. 

But last year’s groundbreaking Department of the Interior report provides some insight on Idaho’s half-dozen federal boarding schools — and a seventh school that was located just over the border in Nevada, but served Idaho students and tribes. 

Click on the tabs below to learn more about each school.

Overview Map

St. Joseph’s

Name(s): St. Joseph’s Mission School; Slickpoo (St. Joseph)

Location: Culdesac, Idaho

Start-End: 1874-1968

St. Joseph's Mission School became a boarding and day school for the Nez Perce. Fires destroyed the children’s dorms in 1916 and again in 1925. The site is now a part of the Nez Perce National Historical Park. Park materials describe the school as established in 1874 and operating until 1968.

Fort Lapwai

Name(s): Fort Lapwai Training School; Fort Lapwai Sanitorium and Hospital; Fort Lapwai Industrial School

Location: Fort Lapwai, Idaho

Start-End: 1885-as late as 1909

After 1885, when old Fort Lapwai ceased to function as a military fort, it was converted into a government Indian school, a tuberculosis sanatorium with a hospital, a boys' and girls' dormitory, and lastly into a school under the direction of the Lapwai School District. From 1891-1899, it was known as the Fort Lapwai Training School.

Mary Immaculate

Name(s): Mary Immaculate School at the Mission of the Sacred Heart of DeSmet; Sisters Building; De Smet

Location: DeSmet, Idaho

Start-End: 1878-1974

On February 10, 1908, a reservation agent was in Washington, D. C., to negotiate building a public school for Coeur d’Alene children. Members of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe were also there, to argue against the public school and to state their wish for the sisters to continue to educate their children. In response, the agents dropped the public school project and gifted the mission 800 tillable acres and 460 acres of timber land “for the duration and support of the school.”

After the General Council gave permission to rebuild, construction on a new convent and school began in June 1908 and was completed a year later. A Sisters of Providence website caption, allegedly of a photograph of students of this school, notes the operational timeframes.

Nez Perce

Name(s): Nez Perce Boarding School

Location: Lapwai, Idaho

Start-End: 1868-1893

A report shows the school opened on Oct. 27, 1868, in one of the agency buildings at the original ''Nez Perce Agency'' with 15 students. The original Nez Perce agents were living at the Spalding Site, near a structure known as the ''Green House;'' it's reported this may have also been used for housing or a school.


Name(s): Lemhi Boarding School; Lemhi Boarding School Girls Dormitory

Location: Lemhi, Idaho

Start-End: 1885-1907

A government-sponsored school opened on the reservation in 1881. The school was sparsely attended due to poor conditions and its suppression of the native culture and language. A new girls' dormitory opened in 1903 to address the original dormitories’ overcrowding and poor ventilation. The dormitory did not serve the reservation for long, as the government dissolved the reservation in 1907 and relocated its residents to Fort Hall. The dormitory building later served as a Grange Hall and a community center for the area.

Fort Hall

Name(s): Fort Hall Boarding School; Lincoln Creek Boarding School

Location: Fort Hall, Idaho

Start-End: 1874-1936

Built at the first site of the military Fort Hall.

Western Shoshone

Name(s): Western Shoshone Boarding School; Western Shoshoni School

Location: Owyhee, Nevada

Start-End: 1881-1917

This school was not located in Idaho, but served Idaho students.