Letter providing a final report on the Forest Grove Indian School to the Secretary of the Interior


Letter providing a final report on the Forest Grove Indian School to the Secretary of the Interior


A letter dated April 24, 1885 providing a final report on the accomplishments of the Forest Grove Indian School as it was being moved to its new site near Salem, Oregon. The letter is from George H. Atkinson, Secretary of the Board of Trustees of Pacific University, to L. Q. C. Lamar, Secretary of the Interior of the United States. In this letter, Atkinson makes a final argument in favor of keeping the school in Forest Grove, principally due to how the Native children were integrated with the white community. He describes the original aims of the Indian School and how it was established; the advantages of its site in Forest Grove; the difficult transition of the first students to the school which included resistance from their parents; accomplishments in vocational and academic skills among the students; and advantages to securing 'hostages' against Indian wars. By the time that this letter was written, the school was already in the midst of being relocated to its new site in Salem.


Atkinson, G. H. (George Henry), 1819-1892

Is Part Of

George H. Atkinson Collection


Off-reservation boarding schools
Native American Studies
Chemawa Indian School


Forest Grove (Or.)
Forest Grove, Oregon




No Known Copyright


Forest Grove Indian School Collection, Pacific University Archives



Other Media

Portland, Oregon, April 24, 1885
Hon. L.Q.C. Lamar
Secretary of the Interior
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir-

Allow me to make the following statements, respecting the U.S. Indian Industrial School at Forest Grove, Oregon.
This Training School was established by Hon. Carl Schurtz Secretary of the Interior.

Its aim was to collect Indian children from many reservations, in this North Pacific region, and teach them not only to read and write, to learn trades and to form habits of industry, (All of which are done to some extent on the reservations,) but also to learn the ways of home and citizen life by living among white families, schools & churches.

Such daily object lessons impress very strongly the mode and value of our civilization for their adoption.
The Government agent sent to select a location for the school, Capt. M.C. Wilkinson U.S.A., presented these objects of the government to the Trustees of Tualatin Academy and Pacific University, located at Forest Grove, and informally to the citizens of that town, and inquired whether they would favor the establishment of the proposed Indian training school in or near that place, and grant it any land or other facilities? This was a serious question, owing to the public sentiment against Indians and the distrust of the possibility of their civilization. But in view of its great importance and of the desire of the Government to test the question thoroughly on this coast, as it was doing at the East in the Schools at Hampton Va., and at Carlisle Pa., the Trustees welcomed the project, the citizens assenting, and offered a block of about four acres free of charge for the school site.

The town furnished these advantages for the success of the enterprise.

1st. It had grown up around & on the lands of the Academy & College as an educational center.

2nd It had like Vineland, New Jersey, prohibited the manufacture, sale or gift of alcoholic drinks in the sale of lots since 1848.

3d It is a cluster of quiet, orderly families settled there chiefly for school privileges, with all needed stores and mechanic shops, three churches & a public school beside the Academy & College.

4. It is surrounded by farming settlements.

5th Its site attractive and healthful.

6th The citizens have bought and offered the U.S. Government twenty three acres adjacent to the town for a larger school site and small farm, and seventy five acres four miles distant for a larger farm, all good land.

Execution of the Plan:

With great difficulty Capt. Wilkinson secured the first fifty Indian children. Their parents objected & in some cases resisted the request and demand of the U.S. Government to remove their children from their rude homes to such a distant school. The change was very great. They found new rooms, clothing, food, habits and language, as all learn English only. Two hundred have come and five hundred will freely do so if they can be received. Parents and friends have visited them and have become satisfied and pleased. Fourteen tribes are represented in the school. Some of the boys are shoemakers; some blacksmiths; some carpenter; some farmers; some wagon makers; some bakers; some printer, owning a press and printing a paper edited by themselves on it; (see copy included)

The girls do all domestic work, mend & make all the clothing. All study half a day & work half a day, this promoting health & industry. Their recreations are becoming like those of white children. They are quiet and respectful. They attend either of the three churches & Sabbath School once every Sabbath joining with other worshipper in the services, and hold a Sab. evening service in their School room.

The older boys engage in military drill with the boys & young men of the Academy and College, & also in the baseball games on the Campus, taking high rank as athletes and in military precision.

Some have entered the Academy [i.e. Tualatin Academy, the high school attached to Pacific University] as students. They have won the respect and confidence of the community. Reproofs and punishments have been infrequent.

By strict care, their social relations have with few exceptions been guided and guarded safely.
Some have graduated and married, and made some of their own on their reservations.

The success of the school is now acknowledged by the people generally; by the press; by large numbers of visiting stranger; by numerous U.S. officials and gentlemen from Europe.

President Hayes & wife inspected and commended it. Hon. J. Eaton LL.D. Ph.D. U.S. Commissioner of Education knows its history from the first. He has visited and approved its work officially & by correspondence has kept himself informed of its progress and increasing usefulness. It is known among all the Indian tribes of this region even to Alaska. It is held in honor among leading Indian chiefs and head men as their great Industrial School. It is a bond of amicable union among them all, and a hostage of peace between them and the whites.

The danger and costs of Indian wars in Alaska, which are always immanent, can, in many if not in all cases, be averted by keeping a large delegation of their children in U.S. Indian Training School at Forest Grove, among those schools, churches and families of sober, intelligent, industrious white people. That is an object lesson of great power upon the Indian mind.

Their removal to the woods four miles from Salem, will deprive them of the best elements of their training and so far defeat the plans of the U.S. Government in preparing them for civilized life.

Yours respectfully,
G.H. Atkinson
Secy. of T.A. & Pacific University