The Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah was a boarding school for Native Americans that opened in 1950. Initially housing over 500 Navajo students, its purpose was to teach English and basic academic skills to Native American children, in order to ease assimilation into mainstream America. In 1975 the school expanded and enrolled students from over 100 other tribes, causing tension and riots to break out among the students. The school was shut down in 1984, and of the 60 original buildings only a small group of them remain. They are also in the process of being torn down after being sold to Utah State University.
I have grown attached to this abandoned place. When photographing this particular series of the school, I wanted to capture the personal relationship I’ve developed with these buildings, while making a statement about what they represent historically.To achieve this I construct replicas and then cut and paste sections of the original images into the rooms. My process and materials express my interpretation of the school, while still maintaining a sense of mystery.
I hope the viewers will feel like they could physically explore these rooms, though it is apparent that they would easily collapse under any weight. The fragile models represent the empty shell the school has become and are remnants of an idea built from ignorance and a lack of understanding. The un-natural assimilation process caused extreme segregation, which eventually led to the school’s closure.
"The Intermountain Indian School" 2010
The Intermountain Indian School was originally a Bushnell Army Hospital, and was open from 1942 through 1947 housing the wounded soldiers of World War II. It was decided that the land would be used as a federally run Intermountain Indian School and was for Navajo children that were bussed in from Arizona. The students were taught from elementary through high school. The school opened in 1948 and closed in 1984. Since then only a small group of the original buildings are still standing.Most of land is now owned by Utah State University and the rest of the area has been turned into apartment buildings and a golf course.
In doing this series I wanted to capture the over all feeling of the school the first time I walked through it. There is something so beautiful and interesting about structures that have been built by man and then taken over by nature. I always heard that the school was a haunted and scary place, but I never felt that way going through it.
When I am shooting and wandering through the vacant buildings; I often wonder why there are any buildings left standing at all. When they are all torn down and built over; what will remain? A historical reference, or a place that teens would dare each other to enter? For me it's a place filled with memories and experiences and even though those experiences haven't been ones that I have had they are always present when wandering through the halls.