The authors of this site are Eva Guggemos, Archivist and Associate Professor, Pacific University; and SuAnn Reddick, independent scholar, writer, and Chemawa historian. This site is hosted by the Pacific University Archives, which also maintains a site on the overall history of the Forest Grove Indian School.
We offer this site with the families and tribes of Chemawa students foremost in our hearts and minds. We hope to honor the memories of the students who endured the horrible system that Chemawa once embodied: a system that was designed to exterminate Native culture and which imposed untold trauma on generations of Native people. We also wish to honor and thank all of those who have generously shared their stories and their sources. Please see our statements below regarding how and why we conducted the research that is contained on this site.
We welcome any corrections, questions, comments or complaints that you may wish to share with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement from SuAnn Reddick:
Beginnings are often hard to trace, but the beginning of my bond to Chemawa is a vivid memory. In 1996, Jeanne Larsen, a friend from Grand Ronde and the co-grandmother of my fourth grandchild, encouraged me to research and write the history of the school. She introduced me to Ben Lawver, who gave me a tour of the campus and I met Miguel Reyes, the business manager who hired me to draw a plan for a Ropes Course on the Northeast corner of the campus. The Course was to be a therapeutic program for the Chemawa Alcohol Education Center, teaching students trust and cooperation, helping them to heal from the emotional and addiction burdens they bore. Because of that first introduction, I spent 15 years with the school, made many friends, and continue to advocate for the preservation of the land and the cemetery.
In 1983, I enrolled in the Landscape Architecture program at the University of Oregon, single, mother of seven, with experience in gardening and design and a lot of hope. By the time I received a Masters degree in 1990, I had developed a passion for history and writing. When I was asked to design the Ropes Course, I needed to understand more about the land, and also wanted to discover Chemawa’s origins.
At the Southwest corner of the property, the cemetery is on the historic campus where the first school buildings were built by students in 1885. Within a grove of Douglas fir trees, I stepped carefully through the weeds and blackberries, seeing a few marble grave stones, and rows of markers — metal plates on concrete blocks. Strangely, the markers were identical, engraved with names and dates from 1885 to 1944. Here were children who had died at Chemawa, far from their homes, torn from their families, tribes and traditions. They could have been aunties and uncles, perhaps even grandparents of those students using the Ropes Course. (I later discovered that two of my grandchildren have an Aleutian ancestor at the cemetery.) The graves were named and dated, yet did not speak of tribal origins. How could we know who they really were and how they died? How could their families ever find them? The administration and the BIA, had no available records of tribes or villages.
Around 1998, John Campbell, a friend from Tulalip with a background in archaeology helped me “read” the cemetery and review the names. His father age 8, was sent from Alaska to Chemawa in 1904. At Forest Grove, we found graves of children who died before the move to Salem. I met Cary and Tina Collins who had a copy of the school roster and made a list of names with additional information about tribes from their research. Richard Reed, then Archivist at Pacific University, and Joyce Justice at the National Archives at Seattle provided me with both information and inspiration. Yet, there was still much unknown — gaps in the rows that suggested unmarked graves — duplicate and damaged markers and no explanation for the identical markers over a period of sixty years. In 2000, Cary and I published articles on the evolution of the school from Forest Grove to Salem. Soon afterwards, I met Charles Holmes who helped me to understand why the markers were identical. (See Chemawa Map)
In 2003, I created two spreadsheets; one with names from markers and the second listing all deaths at the school from 1880. I hoped that some names on the second list might account for the unmarked graves. Susan Karren, archivist at NARA, Sand Point, agreed to help me, and assigned Amber Raney to cross check my list and student files. A few years later the 1960 version of the original cemetery plat map was found at the school, and I was allowed to make a copy. The map showed the layout with some partial rows and gaps with unmarked plots. Nearly all of the children were from the Pacific Northwest and California, and more of the children came from Alaska than any other state, (See corrected Cemetery Map)
My role as Chemawa historian expanded and I volunteered there until 2011. Many students, researchers, writers and genealogists asked me for information and some visited my home to look at my files. I attended school board meetings, National Indian Education Association and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians conferences. I spoke to Chemawa students, Tribal Councils, alumni, community groups and federal and local government representatives, advocating for greater involvement of the Tribes with the school and protection of the Chemawa cemetery and the campus land. In 2019, I donated some of the materials about Chemawa to Willamette University and they recently published a Finding Aid for those records. At the invitation of Eva Guggemos, and with the help of Willy Templeton and James LaBelle Sr, I attended the 2019 conference of the Native American Boarding School Survivors Coalition (NABS) at Tulalip. Eva and I presented papers on her research at Forest Grove and mine at Chemawa and decided to collaborate on this website.
In May 2021, we learned of unmarked graves at residential schools in Canada and the US. Our work has made us acutely aware of the history of the thousands of indigenous children who suffered abuse and death in boarding schools. We are grateful for the increase in public awareness and hope that these revelations will guide future - wiser - decisions by our elected officials. We also acknowledge those counselors, teachers, staff and administrators, who have dedicated their lives to helping, teaching and healing children in the boarding schools. Our goal is that this study may honor the children, reveal the truth, reunite families and help the healing. I am indebted to Eva, a friend and partner who has inspired me to complete my part of this project. Without her generosity, technical expertise, and devotion to the students of Forest Grove and Chemawa Indian School, this site would not have been possible.
Statement from Eva Guggemos:
Thank you for reading my statement on how I became involved in researching the graves and deaths that occured at Chemawa Indian School and its predecessor, the Forest Grove Indian School.
I come to this project as an academic: more specifically, as an archivist and an historian. I would like to acknowledge first that the kind of knowledge that I have is limited to what we can learn from books, archives, and from speaking to and listening to survivors and their families. I am not Native, and so I will never have the deeper knowledge of what these schools meant that only Native people can have. I can only offer what my background and training allow me to provide.
How I came to study this issue is a long story:
I have been deeply interested in history and language since childhood. I went to college at the University of Kansas and majored in History and French, and then went on to a graduate program at Yale University, where I earned an M.A. in History. My focus was on the memory of the Holocaust in French-speaking countries. As part of my studies, I took classes on the history of genocide in general. I spent a lot of time thinking about how and why people support genocidal policies and whether history might have any lessons for how we could prevent genocides in the future.
While working on my M.A., I was also working in Yale's library. I spent two years as a student assistant in the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, writing transcripts of Jewish survivor statements. The work was very difficult emotionally, but it opened my eyes to my eventual career path working as an archivist. After finishing my M.A., I went to work full-time at Yale's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library while putting myself through a Master's of Library Science program at Simmons. When I graduated from that program, I was promoted to a position as the Beinecke's Research Services Librarian. After several years in that role, I made the decision to relocate back to the West Coast, where I could be closer to my family in the Bay Area.
Pacific University happened to have an opening for an archivist in 2011, and I was lucky to be offered the job. I did not know much at all about the university or about Oregon history when I arrived. I was immediately drawn, however, to one particular box in the Archives, which contained material on the "Forest Grove Indian Training School." It had photocopied records and a few original documents and photographs related to a residential school that once existed in the same town as Pacific University.
This caught my eye because at the Beinecke, we had the papers of Richard Henry Pratt -- the man who founded the Carlisle Indian School, which was the first federal boarding school for Natives. Pratt's papers had similar photographs to the ones I was seeing at Pacific. Aside from a few articles that we had on file, though, we did not have very much information about the Forest Grove Indian School (or "FGIS"). I had a lot of questions that were not easy to answer.
The questions became more urgent when I met Shawna Hotch, who was a freshman at Pacific. (See her statement, here.) She had just graduated from Chemawa and was interested in doing a service project relating to the Forest Grove Indian School: to find and clean up the graves of students who attended. Sadly, I had no idea where the graves of the students might be, or even how many students had died. All we had was a photocopy of the school roster from the National Archives branch in Seattle. But we did not know whether the names listed there (or the tribes, death dates, and so on) were accurate, and burial locations were not listed.
Shawna's request touched off years of work to document the Forest Grove Indian School more fully. She came to work in the archives, and we transcribed the roster and began researching each student on it. We scanned, described and published online every document we could find in the Pacific University Archives related to the school, work that continued and was expanded after Shawna transferred away from Pacific. Many details about the Forest Grove Indian School that had never before been published began to emerge through this process.
By 2017, I had decided to write a book on the history of the school. Since that time, I have spent hundreds of hours immersed in archival sources. I read and listened to the accounts of survivors of other residential schools (very little first-person testimony still exists from the Forest Grove Indian School itself, as its last living student passed away in the 1970s). I attended a conference of the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, which was extremely powerful and humbling, as it brought home to me how much the trauma from residential schools continues to affect Native communities. I have been trying to answer fundamental questions about the school and about the children who attended, including how and why the school formed, why white people supported its original goal of eradicating Native culture, what daily life was like for the students, and what effect the school had on their lives after they went home.
The question that Shawna raised, however, of "where are the graves?" has always been a top concern. I searched meticulously for any trace of documentation of student deaths or burials and documented the work it in an online spreadsheet. Much of the best evidence derived from the financial records of the school, since its accounting rules required that unusual expenses like coffins be documented in ledgers. Many people assisted in providing information; too many to name them all. The most substantial help however came from SuAnn Reddick, whose statement is above. SuAnn has been incredibly generous to me with her time, attention and willingness to share the sources she has found over more than two decades of research. We have been able to help improve, correct and fill in gaps in each others' work, resulting in more accurate information about deaths both at FGIS and Chemawa.
This site is a collaborative effort to put together our findings and make them more easily accessible, primarily to the relatives of students at Chemawa, but with the broader public interest in telling the truth about deaths at the school also in mind. Just as many survivors of the Holocaust asked us to "Never Forget," I believe we have a responsibility to remember the trauma of Native people who attended residential schools, and to act so that "Never Again" does our government try to eradicate indigenous peoples or their cultures.