Brophy seeks to better understand its past relationship with the Phoenix Indian School

Illustration by Victor Beck’20 | Depiction of the historical Indian School, located south of Brophy’s campus

By Victor Beck’20


On Jan. 6, the day before students returned from winter break, the entire Brophy faculty went on a retreat to the Heard Museum and the Phoenix Indian School.

In an email sent by Brophy Principal Mr. Bob Ryan to the faculty, the retreat was meant to highlight points of intersection for the neighboring institutions and give the “opportunity to better understand [the] school’s geographic and historical context.”

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the US federal government took Native American children from their homes and shipped them to boarding schools across the U.S. to assimilate them into western society.

The Phoenix Indian School, just 1000 feet from campus, housed 600 regular students, including thousands of children who were stripped of their heritage, traditions and language.

The intention for the school was to create a cheap labor force rather than to actually educate students.

Student life was highly regimented, with little free time, uniforms and marching drills. Boys and girls were subject to whipping and jailing as a punishment for running away.

Mrs. Venberg was a retreatant in January and shared some knowledge on the schools’ connected history.

“The [indian school] property used to come all the way up to the canal, so it was right across from where Brophy was, and was obviously a working school into the 90s,” said Mrs. Venberg.

Mrs. Venberg said that there was a time in Brophy’s early history where it wanted to buy land from the Indian school.

“At one point, Brophy looked into buying early on in the twenties and looked into buying some of that land from the government to do a college that obviously didn’t come to fruition,” said Mrs. Venberg.

Mr. Jonathan Londono ’10 works in the Office of Equity and Inclusion and took a group of teachers to the Heard Museum before the official retreat in January.

“We did it in November for Native American heritage month because we had no programming for that month, and the small group turned into a catalyst to bring everybody,” said Mr. Londono.

While on the retreat, Mr. Londono learned more about the areas of overlap between the Indian school and Brophy.

“The Phoenix Indian school band was popular and contracted to play in Brophy Hall for the beginning opening ceremonies of Brophy,” said Mr. Londono.

Other than that in the early years, Mr. Londono said there were football games between the schools and said some of the old newspaper clippings headlines weren’t particularly friendly.