Spanish mission buildings and sandstone homes

The producers of Beyond the Mesas were very fortunate that Marsah Balenquah from Bacavi on Third Mesa agreed to be interviewed for the film. In the documentary she explains that she attended Sherman for thirteen or fourteen years. At one point in the film she describes her impression of the school’s buildings. Built by Indian students in a Spanish Mission architectural style, the buildings did not resemble the sandstone homes she and other Hopis were familiar with on the reservation.

This photograph was taken when Marsah attended the Indian school in Riverside from 1920 to 1934. In the photo girls are standing in a line waiting for roll call and inspection. Everyday life at Sherman was very regimented. An American flag drapes from the portico of the school’s main building. Photo courtesy of the Sherman Indian Museum.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

3 thoughts on “Spanish mission buildings and sandstone homes

  1. An impressive sad fact of growing up a Euro American in Riverside, California where the Sherman Institute is located is that no adults I can recall ever talked about Sherman Institute and the people there. It was like it did not exist or had nothing to do with anyone though the campus was acres and acres of green grass, trees, and buildings (as noted above) you could not see well from the main road, Magnolia Avenue, when you drove by.

    On Sunday’s in the Fifties, a large group would walk to the movie theater while I worked in a gas station and watched this blocks long line of young native people quietly walking past the Texaco gas station where I worked.

    And as I look back I always wonder, why did not anyone speak up about this great expanse of young native people. Not at home, nor at public schools, nor churches was anything really spoken of about this place, Sherman Institute in Riverside, California.

    Wednesday 1/27/10

  2. William Medina

    I have lived in Riverside my entire life and agree with you. It seems as if Sherman Indian High School is invisible. I teach at a local community college and very few of my students have ever heard of Sherman. Maybe Sherman’s invisibility reflects the public school’s neglect of California Indians. High schools in particular have done a poor job teaching students about California’s original inhabitants.

  3. Thanks Phil and William for taking the time to comment. I think the best people suited to answer this question are those who live (or used to live) in Riverside. So thanks again for your comments.

    I also want to let people know that William (Bill) wrote a Ph.D. dissertation at UC Riverside titled “Selling Indians at Sherman Institute, 1902-1922.” In this study he critically examines the ways school officials and members of the Riverside community used Sherman as a tourist attraction. I will write more about Bill’s dissertation in a future post.

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