Date of Award

January 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

James Mochoruk

Second Advisor

Birgit Hans


The Bismarck Indian School was one of twenty-eight off-reservation boarding schools erected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to assimilate Native children into the dominant White society. The school, located in Bismarck, North Dakota, opened in 1908 and briefly closed in 1918. The school started back up in the same year and became an all-female boarding school in 1922 until finally closing down in 1937. When beginning the research I was confronted with a problem; no one had previously written about the school. No other scholars had offered their analysis, or interpretations, on the institution or its pupils. The work presented here will be the first scholarship offered on the school.

Utilizing primary archival documents, located at the Regional National Archives, in Kansas City, Missouri, the story of resistance is the subject matter explored in this thesis. Laying out my work thematically rather than chronologically allowed me to tell a larger story of resistance at the school, particularly between the years of 196-1921. Through the primary documents I show the strategies of resistance that the parents and students developed in response to the Bismarck Indian School, which proved to be an institution that was severely underfunded and lacked proper living conditions. The strategies employed for students ranged from fleeing the school, defying school rules, and fighting school employees. The parents chose to remain highly involved in their children's life at the school, which at times resulted in removing their children from the school or making the community decision to not send any of their children to the institution.