As Halloween approaches, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan is facing a problem: ghost hunters and urban explorers trespassing on the site of the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School.
In an effort to deter these trespassers, the tribe is looking for community members who are willing to camp out to help secure the site on weekends in October.
“The call for volunteers is a standard procedure we do every year around this time,” says Frank Cloutier, Public Relations Director for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. “Unfortunately, we are always left to face the threat of vandalism, trespass, and blatant disrespect for the memory of those who attended the boarding school as students and never returned home. These grounds are to be revered and memorialized - not left to the disrespectful curiosities of those looking for a cheap thrill around the Halloween season.”
A display in the Ziibiwing Center. A display in the Ziibiwing Center. According to official records, the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School had an enrollment of about 300 students per year, ages K-8, during its operation from 1893-1934.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School has a long and storied history. It closed in 1934 after being in operation since 1893. During that time, it enrolled around 300 students per year. Official records show these students were in grades K-8; however, more recent findings suggest students may have been enrolled much younger and been forced to stay into adulthood.
“These grounds were used to house students who, in many cases, were there against their will. They were forced to abandon their culture, way of life, and spirituality with the intent of indoctrinating them into western culture. Many of these students never returned home,” says Cloutier. “To allow others to trample their memories and denigrate their history for one’s own cheap thrills is demoralizing and plain disrespectful.”
After the school closed, the site operated as the Mt. Pleasant branch of the Michigan Home and Training School until 2009 to house those with developmental disabilities.
In 2016, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, along with others involved in preserving the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School site received the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.
In April 2011, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan accepted an offer from the State of Michigan that deeded 300 acres to the city for $1, and eight to the tribe for $1.
In 2016, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, along with Central Michigan University’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, as well as the City of Mt. Pleasant received the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation of the site.
Now, the tribe is working to build a picture of what life would have been like for the students who were forced to attend the school. However, urban explorers and ghost hunters can cause damage to this historic property, which is in a delicate state. Out of over 30 buildings that once stood, just seven still stand to provide testimony of what went on inside those walls and honor the lives of the hundreds of children who perished there.
One of the remaining buildings standing at the site of the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School
Those wishing to help honor the history of the site and protect it from trespassers this month can contact Tera Green at TeGreen@sagchip.org or (989) 775-4750.
“For those who wish to volunteer, they should be self-sufficient, plan on not being confrontational, and have a desire to preserve the grounds at the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School as it should be, with reverence and compassion for the memory of those who never returned home,” says Cloutier.
The tribe asks the community to respect that the site is not open to the public and requests that its history be respected.