Returning Home features and contextualizes the creative works of Diné (Navajo) boarding school students at the Intermountain Indian School, which was the largest federal Indian boarding school between 1950 and 1984. Diné student art and poetry reveal ways that boarding school students sustained and contributed to Indigenous cultures and communities despite assimilationist agendas and pressures.
This book works to recover the lived experiences of Native American boarding school students through creative works, student interviews, and scholarly collaboration. It shows the complex agency and ability of Indigenous youth to maintain their Diné culture within the colonial spaces that were designed to alienate them from their communities and customs. Returning Home provides a view into the students’ experiences and their connections to Diné community and land. Despite the initial Intermountain Indian School agenda to send Diné students away and permanently relocate them elsewhere, Diné student artists and writers returned home through their creative works by evoking senses of Diné Bikéyah and the kinship that defined home for them.
Returning Home uses archival materials housed at Utah State University, as well as material donated by surviving Intermountain Indian School students and teachers throughout Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Artwork, poems, and other creative materials show a longing for cultural connection and demonstrate cultural resilience. This work was shared with surviving Intermountain Indian School students and their communities in and around the Navajo Nation in the form of a traveling museum exhibit, and now it is available in this thoughtfully crafted volume. By bringing together the archived student arts and writings with the voices of living communities, Returning Home traces, recontextualizes, reconnects, and returns the embodiment and perpetuation of Intermountain Indian School students’ everyday acts of resurgence.
About the Author
Farina King, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, is an assistant professor of history and an affiliate of the Department of Cherokee and Indigenous Studies at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Michael P. Taylor is an assistant professor of English and associate director of American Indian Studies at Brigham Young University.
James R. Swensen is an associate professor of art history and the history of photography at Brigham Young University. His research interests include documentary photography and the art and photography of the American West.
“By bringing to light a wide collection of creative writings and artwork, this book offers an unprecedented window into the lives of Diné students at a federal boarding school in the second half of the twentieth century. Students’ words need to be heard and their artwork needs to be seen in order to better understand their schooling and personal experiences at Intermountain.”—Marinella Lentis, author of Colonized through Art: American Indian Schools and Art Education