Researching American Indians and Alaska Natives
school girl
School Records

Student Case Files

Student Case Files from
Non-Reservation Boarding Schools

Teacher with picture cards giving English instruction to Navajo day school students
National Archives Identifier 295158

Reservation Day Schools and Boarding Schools

Records related to students attending reservation-based schools may be found in the administrative records of the Indian agency overseeing that reservation. While individual student case files seldom exist for these schools, student information may appear in records such as:

  • Annual reports

  • Attendance registers

  • Correspondence

  • Group photographs

  • Lists of students

  • School censuses

For a list of schools for which the National Archives holds records, please see the List of American Indian Schools

While many American Indian students attended day schools, boarding schools, and mission schools located on their own reservations, beginning in the 1880s the Bureau of Indian Affairs established non-reservation boarding schools for vocational education. These schools enrolled students from many different tribes located all over the United States. Academic classes were offered for the primary grades through high school. Advanced students chose vocational training such as agriculture, masonry, carpentry, leatherworking, blacksmithing, printing, homemaking, sewing, cooking, and, in later years, plumbing, electrical work, welding, mechanics, food services, and office education.

In addition to administrative records, most of these non-reservation schools created and maintained a case file for each student. The information found in these case files generally includes:

  • Student's name
  • Degree of Indian blood
  • Tribal affiliation
  • Names and tribal affiliations of the studentís parents or guardians
  • Home address
  • Religious affiliation
  • Dates of attendance

While the specific documents can vary widely, the records may include applications for enrollment, medical examination forms, attendance and grade reports, examples of student work, newspaper clippings, documents related to student employment, and correspondence. Photographs generally do not appear in student case files.

Find out how to Request School Records

Learn about administrative records pertaining to American Indian School

A Note About Privacy Restrictions

Student case files and other student-related documents that are less than 75 years old may contain personal information about individuals who are still living. These records are restricted under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Exemption (b)(6), and must be screened by National Archives staff before being released to researchers. Personal information may be redacted. Learn more about FOIA.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

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