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"Nothing Servile"

Native Resistance at the Santee Normal Training School

“Nothing Servile:” Native Resistance at the Santee Normal Training School tells the story of how students at a Native American boarding school combatted forces of assimilation and preserved aspects of their cultures. 


This exhibit encourages viewers to reflect on the dark part of the United States’ past that was the Native American boarding school system—in doing so, questioning Santee’s connections to Beloit College.

Content Warning:


This exhibition references experiences of Native students who attended Santee, experiences that may trigger and cause trauma to both boarding school survivors and their families.

Between 1869-1973, hundreds of thousands of Native American children attended boarding schools such as the Santee Normal Training School. These students often did so unwillingly, having been abducted by government officials. There is overwhelming evidence that boarding school students were subject to starvation, poor living conditions, and physical, mental, spiritual, and sexual abuse. Many children never returned home, and the United States government has yet to account for their fates.  

Students at the Santee Normal Training School, circa 1912-1938. Student names unknown.

Students at the Santee Normal Training School, circa 1912-1938. Student names unknown.

Credit: Columbia University Libraries

Riggs parfleche rawhide bag

Often hung from saddles, parfleche rawhide bags were used by Plains Indian tribes such as the Santee Sioux Nation to hold tools and food. This parfleche was donated to the Logan Museum by the Riggs family.

Credit: The Logan Museum of Anthropology, Albert Green Heath Collection

A Note on Tribe Names


The Santee Sioux Nation—composed of the Sisseton, Wahpeton, Wahpekute, and Mdewakanton peoples—is a federally recognized American Indian tribal nation. Sometimes referred to as the Eastern Dakota, the Santee originated from the central Mississippi River Valley, later migrating to what is today Minnesota. After the Dakota War of 1862, they were expelled by the federal government, and many fled to present day Knox County, Nebraska—the current site of the Santee Reservation. 


The Santee join the Yankton and Yanktonai tribes of the Western Dakota and the seven tribes of the LakotaSičháŋǧu, Oglála, Itázipčho, Húŋkpapȟa, Sihásapa, and Mnikȟówožu—to make up the Great Sioux Nation, or Oceti Sakowin. While the Santee Normal Training School was established for the Santee Reservation, those enrolled were not exclusively Santee. The boarding school took in Dakota students from all reservations, as well as those from Siouian tribes that spoke similar dialects.


Unless their respective tribe is known, the pupils of the school will be collectively referred to as “Dakota.”

Nicolette Meister, Director, Logan Museum of Anthropology

Manuel Ferreira, Curator of Collections, Logan Museum of Anthropology

Fred Burwell, Archivist Emeritus, Beloit College

Kelly Leahy, Student Success and Engagement Librarian, Beloit College

Dr. Rose Miron, Director, D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies

Sarah Jimenez, Program Coordinator, D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies

Dr. Elizabeth Prevost, Professor of History, Grinnell College

Dr. Ralph Savarese, Professor of English, Grinnell College

Dr. Bradford Hunt, Professor of History, Loyola University Chicago

Exhibit curated by Morgan Lippert '21

A special thanks to the following for all their support, without which this exhibit would not have been possible:

Background Image: List of Santee Normal Training School students in 1901

Credit: Newberry Library 

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