This collection contains 85 glass plate negatives depicting Iroquois students and student life at the Thomas Indian School on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in New York state, circa 1900-1945.
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains 85 glass plate negatives depicting Iroquois students and student life at the Thomas Indian School circa 1900-1945. The images depict student and class portraits; school activities such as school plays or performances, basketball, football, and Girl Scouts; classes such as woodworking, cooking, and agriculture; and campus buildings and grounds. The photographer is unknown, but was probably affiliated with the school. Iroquois children from Seneca [Cattaraugus], Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Tuscarora communities attended the school.
This collection is intellectually arranged in 3 series. Series 1: Student and class portraits, Series 2: School activities and classes, Series 3: School buildings and grounds. The collection is physically organized by negative number.
Biographical / Historical:
Located on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in New York State, the Thomas Asylum for Orphaned and Destitute Indian Children was established as a private institution in 1855 and named after benefactor Philip E. Thomas. Orphaned and poor American Indian children from the Seneca [Cattaraugus], Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Tuscarora communities were sent to the asylum for boarding and care. In 1875 the institution was transferred to the State of New York and run under the New York State Board of Charities. It was charged with the education and vocational training of American Indian children in their care, which is reported to have included acculturation and assimilation of Native students by means of prohibiting use of Native languages and traditional cultural practices. In 1905 the institution was renamed the Thomas Indian School. By this time, eight grades were offered at the school, which had a half-day system with students attending classes for part of the day and working the other half. By 1930, the School was classified as a junior high school, but it was eventually closed in 1957 by the State.
The New York State Archives in Albany, NY holds the Thomas Indian School Agency History Records and a collection of photographs.
This collection was donated by the grandchildren of Victor and Ethel Bissell Seneca.
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Thursday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to email@example.com.