The History of Sherman Indian High School

By Carol Ray

      My early recollections of Sherman Indian High School go clear back to the late 1930's. Although I was never a student there myself, several family members and many friends were. I can still remember being taken there as a very young child. By that time, the school had already been relocated.
      In about 1890, the original school was built in Perris, California. It soon became apparent that there was an inadequate water supply. Ten years later, a new school was constructed in Riverside, California, opening in May 1902. The new school consisted of nine original buildings set on approximately 100 acres. The school was named after Dr. James Schoolcraft Sherman.
      There were 43 tribes represented by 1909. The students raised their own food in the fields that stretched away from the cluster of buildings. A complete elementary and high school curriculum was offered by 1926, but by 1948, it had digressed to an ungraded five year program for Navajo youth.
      After failing to meet earthquake standards in 1970, the California Tribal Nations were required to pay for the demolition or repair of the bui
ldings. Of the original 9 buildings, only one building remained. That lone building is today the Sherman Indian Museum. It's curator is Lorene Sisquoc. The original palm trees still stand around a curving driveway that no longer exists. Most of the original acreage was sold by the BIA, to surrounding businesses, faith organizations, and some even became part of a freeway that runs behind the athletic field.
    New buildings were constructed on the smaller plot. They include a student center, classrooms and apartments, fine arts complex, auditorium, physical education complex including basketball and tennis courts, faculty management shops, personnel service and warehouses.
   Today, Sherman Indian High School is co-educational. It is accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The curriculum includes both college prep and vocational programs. Most of the students come from Arizona and New Mexico.
      In the not too distant past, the local urban Indian community in Riverside and San Bernardino found out that the school was graduating students with the equivalent of less than a tenth grade education. In light of that realization, a nearby junior college began allowing serious students to enroll, allowing them to gain the education that they rightfully deserve.
      A one day pow wow is held on the third Saturday in April. Indian people from many western states come to attend. Several years ago, dancers were not allowed to dance in their traditional ways until they had learned ballet. At last year's pow wow, traditional ceremonies were discarded in favor of Christian ones, much to the dismay of the traditional spiritual leaders of our community.
      I feel that the BIA, as a branch of the federal government, never gives up on it's assimilation programs.
      Sherman Indian High School has a long history. While some of it may have been good, clearly other aspects are lacking.

A database of those students who attended Sherman High School
      Sherman Names Project: