Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial School – Mount Pleasant, Michigan - Atlas Obscura

Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial School

This solemn facility remembers the tragic effort to compel American-Indian children to relinquish their culture.  

The Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial School opened in 1893 and housed an average of 300 American-Indian students per year up until it closed in 1934. The boarding school students, ranging in age from kindergarten through 8th grade, were housed onsite at this 37-building campus located on 320 acres in central Michigan.

Despite its wholesome-sounding title, the school represented a tragic chapter in United States history. It was one of over two dozen such boarding schools across the country that were designed to indoctrinate American-Indian children into the customs, traditions, language, and religious beliefs of Christian, European-Americans.

Life at the school was very regimented. The day mostly consisted of manual labor and some basic academic instruction. Throughout their attendance, young American Indians were compelled to relinquish their heritage, language beliefs, and culture. Among the many tragedies resulting from the operation of this school, none is greater than the approximately 200 children who lost their lives here during its 41-year history. The onsite cemetery contains the remains of many of these innocent victims of a cruel social experiment.

After the school closed in 1934, the facilities were utilized to house young men with mental health issues or who had been convicted of a crime. It remained in operation as such until 2008. The following year, on June 17, 2009, a healing and forgiveness march was held by hundreds of Native and non-Native people to acknowledge the sad history of the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial School. In 2011, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe purchased the facility as a “Site of Conscience” so that its terrible legacy would not be lost or forgotten. In 2018, the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial School, Mission Creek Cemetery, and surrounding lands were added to the National Register of Historic Places.   

Know Before You Go

Access into the buildings is prohibited. Please be respectful of this solemn "Site of Conscience." More information about the former school can be found at the Ziibiwing Center in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

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