In 1891, the Phoenix Indian School opened, part of the federal government’s plan to assimilate Native Americans. It was one of several boarding schools established around the country to force Indian children to speak English, cut their hair, wear Anglo clothes, and attend church.
Students were also required to abandon their tribal traditions and leave their families behind, a particularly difficult sacrifice for the close-knit Native American communities.
By 1900, the co-ed school had grown to 698 students from 23 tribes across the West. Its 160-acre campus had a large schoolhouse, dining hall, several dormitories, and workspace to teach vocation skills.
It finally closed in 1990, and a decade later, a third of the land was redeveloped as the Steele Indian School Park (300 E. Indian School Rd., 602/495-0739, www.phoenix.gov/parks , 6 a.m.–10 p.m. daily). Only three of the school’s original buildings remain, including the restored Memorial Hall, an auditorium that was opened in 1922 to honor Native American students who had fought in World War I.
Fittingly, Native Americans now gather at the park for tribal celebrations and festivals, and it’s also the site of Phoenix ’s annual Fourth of July fireworks event.