Published on November 23, 2012 by Amy
Sherman Indian High School (SIHS) is an off-reservation boarding high school for Native Americans. Originally opened in 1892 as the Perris Indian School, in Perris, California, the school was relocated to Riverside, California, in 1903, under the name The Sherman Institute. When the school was accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 1971, it become known as the Sherman Indian High School.
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Operated by the Bureau of Indian Education/Bureau of Indian Affairs and the United States Government Department of the Interior, the school serves grades 9 through 12. The school mascot is the Brave and the school colors are purple and yellow. There are 7 dormitory facilities on the SIHS grounds. The male facilities are Wigwam, Ramona, and Kiva. Female facilities are Wauneka, Dawaki, and Winona. The last dorm is a transition dorm, Hogan. In addition to the seven dorms, there is also a set of 13 honor apartments named Sunset. Only 4 dorms are available for students to live in including Wigwam, Kiva, Dawaki, Ramona, and Winona.
According to the Sherman Indian Museum, SIHS was founded by the United States Government in order to assimilate Native Americans into the mainstream society.
SIHS was originally known as the Perris Indian School, which was established in 1892 under the direction of Mr. M. S. Savage. This was the first off-reservation Indian Boarding School in California. The enrollment then consisted of Southern California Indian children from the Tule River Agency to San Diego County. Students ranged in age from 5 years old to early 20s. The main subjects taught were agriculture and domestic science.
The 80-acre (320,000 m2) site in Perris, California was at the corner of today’s Perris Boulevard and Morgan Street. Due to an inadequate water supply to conduct the primary subjects at the school, a better location was sought. By 1901 a site in the City of Riverside was selected, at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Jackson Street. On July 19, 1901, the cornerstone was laid for the new school building of Sherman Institute. Perris Indian School remained in operation until December 1904 when the remaining students were transferred to Riverside.
The Mission Revival Style architecture was considered a novelty when the school was built, and the city promoted the school as one of the landmarks to visit by tourists. To meet earthquake standards, most of the original school buildings were demolished during the 1970s, and new structures were built in their place. The California Native Tribes were required to pay for the demolition and for the new buildings.
During the 2008–09 school year, SIHS administration removed more than 30 staff from their facility, upsetting the students. The students protested, to no effect. Officials stated that there were not enough BIA funds to pay the employees that had been let go. That same year, traditional ceremonies for the school’s annual spring pow-wow were replaced with Christian prayers.
The Sherman Museum is currently the school’s only original architecture; it was once the school’s administration building. The building has been designated a National Historic Landmark and Riverside city landmark number 16.
In 1995 Huell Howser Productions, in association with KCET/Los Angeles, featured Sherman Institute High School in California’s Gold; the 29 minute program is available on VHS.
Because of Bureau of Indian Affairs policies, students did not return home for several years. Those who died were often buried in the school cemetery. May 3 marks an old tradition amongst the local tribes where many local reservations decorate their cemeteries with flowers and replace old crosses. Sherman Indian High School designates this as Indian Flower Day.
SIHS Annual Powwow and other events: Every year, in mid-April, Sherman hosts a one-day powwow. The event officially ends Sherman’s parent-teacher conference week. SIHS holds an annual Talent Show on the Thursday of that week. The Miss Sherman Pageant also occurs during this week annually, traditionally on Friday, the evening before the powwow.