Published on November 22, 2012 by Amy
Steele Indian School Park is located on the northeast corner of Indian School Road and Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona.
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The park is on the site of the Phoenix Indian School, one of several boarding schools owned and operated by the U.S. government, designed in the late 19th century to socialize and assimilate Native Americans into the dominant Euro-American socio-cultural system. These schools became controversial in later decades for the alleged mistreatment of their students, as well as the suppression and prohibition of the students’ indigenous culture and languages. The Phoenix school began operations on the site in 1892. In the late 1980s it was declared unnecessary as most Native students attended schools either in the general community, or on their own reservations, by this time; also, the land on which the school was built, now part of a busy commercial district in Central Phoenix, was much too financially valuable by this time to justify the school’s continued operation. After the school shut down for good in 1990, the buildings and grounds sat vacant for a few years.
Indian School Road, on which the former school and the current park sits, is a major arterial street connecting Phoenix and its western suburbs, such as Tolleson and Litchfield Park, with Scottsdale and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to the east; it is presumably named for the school.
The city of Phoenix obtained the land in 1996 through an intricate three-way land exchange involving the Florida-based Barron Collier Company and the federal government (the Bank of America Tower was built in the late 1990s in downtown Phoenix by a partnership between Barron Collier Company and Opus West Corporation on land acquired in the exchange). At the time, Barron Collier Company also established a $35 million trust fund for the education of Native children in Arizona. The park is named after Horace C. Steele, a local businessman and philanthropist; his charitable foundation donated $2.5 million dollars to start development of the park. The park opened in late 2001. Some of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and are being renovated; some of the alumni of the school want to use a few of these buildings as museum space documenting the school’s history, as well as for a more general Native American cultural center.
The park is the site of an exhibition of Native American arts and crafts organized by the Pueblo Grande Museum and the Arizona Indian Festival. The city of Phoenix has held its annual Fourth of July fireworks display at the park for several years. April annual Phoenix Pride host gay pride festival on northeast park near V.A hospital.
In 2007, the park was the site of a nationally-covered accident involving two television news helicopters that killed the occupants of both aircraft.
The park is open 364 days a year, and offers ponds to fish. It is served by the Indian School station on the METRO Light Rail system.