New Documentary on the American Indian Boarding School Experience

Published: 2/15/2023



February 15, 2023



Brenda Buller Focht

Museum Curator

[email protected]

(951) 826-5130


New Documentary on the American Indian Boarding School Experience


Riverside, CA –The Museum of Riverside, Sherman Indian Museum, and Costo Endowment of American Indian Affairs at the University of California, Riverside, are pleased to announce three upcoming events that feature a new documentary “These Are Not ‘Stories’: American Indian Boarding Schools in Southern California.”

The documentary features the voices of eight former boarding school students and family members, as well as Lorene Sisquoc, Curator of the Sherman Indian Museum. The accounts are not “stories,” but the true experiences of students at American Indian boarding schools.

Members of the Cahuilla (Mountain Cahuilla, Member of Cahuilla Band of Indians and Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians), Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of the Chemehuevi Reservation, Hopi, Hualapai Tribe, Salt River Pima/Maricopa, and Tohono O’odham peoples shared their own words for this project. The interviews delve into the range of boarding school experiences, from the shameful and oppressive practices of early American Indian boarding schools to the more recent years when students enjoyed fulfilling and transformative educations. The experiences recorded for this project will be preserved and shared for future generations.

All three viewings of the documentary are free and open to the public. The premiere will be at 2 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Robert Levi Auditorium of the Sherman Indian High School. The premiere will be followed by a question-and-answer period with UCR Distinguished Professor Clifford E. Trafzer Ph.D. (Wyandot ancestry) and Lorene Sisquoc (Mountain Cahuilla/Fort Sill Apache), Curator, Sherman Indian Museum.

Additional screenings include:

11 a.m. March 18, UCR Palm Desert Campus Auditorium, 75080 Frank Sinatra Dr.

2 p.m. March 25 at The Box, 3635 Market St. in downtown Riverside.

This documentary and events were made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Act (2021) in partnership with the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums.

The Museum of Riverside received a $19,150 grant for a partnership with Sherman Indian High School through the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Native Institutions. This grant program is intended to help Native cultural institutions recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and provide humanities programming to their communities. This project would not be possible without the partnerships of the Sherman Indian Museum and Costo Endowment of American Indian Affairs, University of California, Riverside.


The Museum of Riverside is grateful to stand on the traditional and ancestral lands of the Cahuilla, Gabrielino-Tongva, Luiseño, and Serrano peoples. The Cahuilla, Gabrielino-Tongva, Luiseño, and Serrano continue to live and thrive in Southern California.

We at UCR would like to respectfully acknowledge and recognize our responsibility to the original and current caretakers of this land, water, and air: the Cahuilla [ka-weeahh], Tongva [tong-va], Luiseño [loo-say-ngo], and Serrano [se-ran-oh] peoples and all of their ancestors and descendants, past, present, and future. Today this meeting place is home to many Indigenous peoples from all over the world, including UCR faculty, students, and staff, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to live and work on these homelands.

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The Museum of Riverside, a department of the city of Riverside, holds a large multi-disciplinary collection relevant to the history, culture, and natural science of the region.  The Museum has a proud history of exhibitions, programs, and publications foregrounding local and regional achievement.  Sites include the downtown Riverside main museum, Heritage House, Harada House, and the Harada House Interpretive Center (forthcoming).  All sites except Heritage House are temporarily closed for renovation or rehabilitation.  Heritage House is open Friday-Sunday for guided tours; pre-registration for tours is required via Eventbrite. Learn more at www.museumofriverside.org.





Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.




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The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) is an international association dedicated to preserving and advancing the language, history, culture, and lifeways of Indigenous peoples. Founded in 2010, ATALM maintains a network of support for Indigenous cultural programs, provides professional development training, enables collaboration among tribal and non-tribal cultural institutions, and advocates for programs and funding to sustain the cultural sovereignty of Native Nations. To learn more, visit www.atalm.org.








In 1986, Cahuilla scholar Rupert Costo of the Cahuilla Tribe endowed the first Chair in American Indian History at the University of California, Riverside, an institution he helped establish. This was the first endowed chair in the world devoted to American Indian Affairs. The Costo Endowment supports research on Native American history, culture, film, art, oral narratives, politics, economics, and sovereignty. In addition to supporting the research of the Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, the endowment supports the research and education of undergraduate and graduate students focusing their studies on American Indian issues. Over the course of many years, the Costo Endowment has funded student research as well as projects centered of the past, present, and future of Native America.   



The Sherman Indian Museum documents the history of the Perris Indian School, Sherman Institute, and the Sherman Indian High School, as well as the Native American experience in the United States and with government-run American-run Indian boarding schools.  The Collection spans more than a century and richly documents the experience of students representing more than fifty tribal nations, who attended the school since its inception in 1892.