Stewart Indian School Archeology

History of Stewart

stone house

The Stewart Indian School is an Indian Boarding school located in Carson City, Nevada. The school educated numerous Indians from tribes all over the West, from its opening in 1890 until its closing in 1980. The goal of Indian boarding schools across the west was assimilation of Indian children into white culture. With assimilation at the forefront, the school was originally very militaristic in style and the treatment of students. Vocational training originally had more emphasis than academic studies, but in the school’s mid to later years, academics were considered just as important. The eventual closing of Stewart in 1980 was due to budget cuts and concerns with safety of some of the old stone buildings on the campus.


“It is a really important place of national significance, and it needs to be preserved and interpreted for the public so people know the story of this place, it’s like a national treasure, but a lot of people don’t know it’s here.” —Sarah Cowie


The fieldwork was conducted in the summer of 2013. Ground survey was done to help determine where excavations could begin. Ground-penetrating radar followed to help further distinguish where artifacts could be uncovered. Students participating in the field school assisted with excavating test units in the areas chosen. Due to collaborative efforts, many artifacts were recorded in the field, but not collected or taken off site.

Collaborative Archaeology

“The goal of collaborative archaeology is to correct the inequality that exists between descendent groups and archaeologists by transcending standard consultation requirements and reaching a truly cooperative relationship that begins at the onset of research projects.” —Kent G. Lightfoot


The work conducted at Stewart was a collaborative project between Dr. Cowie and the University of Nevada, Reno, in cooperation with the State Historic Preservation Office, the Nevada Indian Commission, and the Washoe Tribal Historic Preservation Office. The interest and aim of the field school was to uncover the original wood buildings from Stewart’s earliest years, which were replaced starting in 1919.



Glass fragments, nails, and architectural materials were all common finds within many of the test units. Buttons, marbles, coins, toys and other miscellaneous artifacts were also discovered between the units. Many architectural artifacts were uncovered at units that lined the area of the original wooden school building; however, some were mixed possibly due to later construction in the area.

Page written by Heather Domschot