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Captain Jack
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of American Indians in California:

Sherman Institute (Riverside Perris School)
Riverside County

The Sherman Institute is located at 9010 Magnolia Avenue between Jackson and Monroe streets, in Riverside, California. Several buildings stand on the site, including dormitories, administrative offices, a sports stadium, and a museum. The museum is the only remaining original structure. Its style is common to railroad depots at the turn of the century, unlike the mission style of other buildings on the campus. A high chain-link fence surrounds the 140-acre area. Named for James S. Sherman, who later became vice president of the United States under President William H. Taft, the institute once occupied two locations, the Perris Indian School, south of Riverside, and the Riverside Indian School at the present location. In 1904, the two schools were consolidated, and the Perris Indian School was relocated to the site on which the Sherman Institute now stands.

Sherman housed the first permanent Indian hospital in California. The U.S. Government built it in 1901 in an effort to respond to the serious health problems of California Indians. (Heizer, 1978:118) After having established educational facilities for Indians in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the U.S. Indian Service began to abandon the federal day schools in the late 1920s and 1930s. In spite of its status as an Indian school, the service also began to limit enrollment of California Indian students at the Sherman Institute. As a result of the new enrollment policy, Indian children entered the public schools in greater numbers. In 1964, a U.S. Senate investigating committee wrote a denunciation of both federal and public education for Indian youth. Regarding the Sherman Institute, it stated:

Senate investigators visiting Sherman Institute reported finding an inadequate staff both administratively and academically. Other deficiencies there included inadequately identified goals, out-dated vocational training, a severe shortage of counselors, and little vigor on the part of the administration in defending the interest of the students. That year, newly readmitted California Indians could find little improvement over public schools in what an unnamed investigator termed the "rigid, uncompromising, bureaucratic, authoritarian, non-innovative federal barony that controlled Sherman." (U.S. Senate, Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969:75)

In response to the Senate findings, the California Indian Education Association was formed, and shortly thereafter conducted the first all-Indian, Indian-controlled conference in the United States. A major outcome of the conference was a recommendation that Indians should be involved in education at all levels. Members of the association made two specific recommendations concerning the Sherman Institute: (1) the school should be governed by an all-Indian board of directors; and (2) projects should be undertaken with regard to California Indian enrollment, curriculum changes to express Indian concepts, a lower teacher-student ratio, and accommodations for visiting parents.

In addition to complying with the recommendations of the CIEA, Sherman had to overcome financial difficulties. In 1934, the U.S. government began to provide funding to local school districts to pay the costs for reservation residents in lieu of local taxes under the Johnson-O'Malley Act (JOM). In 1958, the government provided money to public schools that had high Indian enrollment under Impact Aid (Public Laws 815 and 874) and Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Twenty-five counties in California qualified for funds under Impact Aid and Title I. Therefore, the Bureau of Indian Affairs proposed to cut JOM funds in public schools, and replace them with Impact Aid and Title I funds. However, at this time, JOM funding far exceeded that coming from the other acts. The Bureau decided to use JOM money for special compensatory programs for Indian students. JOM funding to public schools was terminated in 1953, and the Impact Aid and Title I funds went into the general operating budgets of public school districts, but no special Indian programs were initiated. (Heizer, 1978:125) In 1969 and 1970, the American Indian Historical Society and the CIEA helped to reestablish JOM funding. (Heizer, 1978:559)

The primary purpose of the Sherman Institute was to assimilate Indians into the dominant culture. In the early days, therefore, students were not allowed to speak their own language at school, and men and women were not allowed to speak to one another. In spite of these obstacles, hundreds of Indians graduated from Sherman, and many lasting friendships began there. Today, students may hold their religious ceremonies on campus, and there are instructors who teach native Indian languages. Sherman is still a boarding school, and for some families in California, going to Sherman has become a tradition.

Sherman Institute
Sherman Institute

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