Scholar: Enrique Valdivia
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Marybeth Nevins
Research Topic: Legacy of the Stewart Indian School on the Washo Language
Abstract: The Stewart Indian School, located south of Carson City, Nevada, operated for approximately a hundred years from 1890 to 1980. Part of a national endeavor specifically designed for the acculturation of Native Americans, the Stewart Indian School was a boarding school which housed thousands of Northern Nevada indigenous people. Many indigenous languages in the U.S. are in a dire situation, with fewer and fewer new speakers each generation. The language of the Washo people, a tribe from the Lake Tahoe area in both Nevada and California, is one example of a community dealing with language loss. Language represents a key component of both individual and tribal identity, something which government officials understood quite well when they purposed a strictly English speaking environment and curriculum at the Indian Schools across the U.S. Indian School policies aimed at eliminating indigenous languages were effective in "civilizing" Native communities and those effects can be seen today. People trying to restore and maintain their aboriginal languages have a long and painful history to overcome, and the Washo are one of many tribes currently dealing with this process.
The purpose of this research is to examine the ethno-historic record of people's experiences at Stewart Indian School. The study analyses these student experiences and the policies installed by the administrators of the school and examines the impact and influence it continues to have on the Washo community. Understanding the specific historical and personal context of the Stewart Indian School could offer insight as to how the current state of the Washo language came to be. Although this study does not offer any solutions to revitalize the Washo language, it is hoped that it will shed some light on the conditions endured by generations of students as their language and way of life was institutionally attacked.
Earned Baccalaureate Degree: 2012
Earned Master's Degree: 2014, Anthropology, University of Michigan
Doctoral Program Update: Enrolled in PhD program, SUNY-Albany