The Lincoln Creek Day School was an improvement over the Lincoln Creek Boarding School which was built at the first site of the military Fort Hall a few miles away. Children were cajoled to attend the day school to receive an education during the day and allowed to go home to their families at night. Like many such schools on reservations around the country, the earlier boarding school was much like a prison. Beginning in 1882 children were taken from their families, often by reservation police, and forced to live at the school in sometimes dangerous conditions.
At the Fort Hall boarding school children would attend classes during the morning hours. In the afternoon the girls would work in the kitchen, laundry, or sewing room, while the boys raised crops for school use and tended milk cows. All wore uniforms and most got new names. Siblings from a family might end up with two or three surnames.
Sickness spread quickly in the cramped boarding school. In 1891, ten students died from scarlet fever. Some students committed suicide. Years later students remembered playing in the schoolyard and finding bones of buried children at the Lincoln Creek Boarding School.
The attitude of the government was probably best summed up by the following quote.
"The Indians must conform to ‘the white man's ways,' peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must. They must adjust themselves to their environment, and conform their mode of living substantially to our civilization. This civilization may not be the best possible, but it is the best the Indians can get. They can not escape it, and must either conform to it or be crushed by it." –Thomas Morgan, US Commissioner of Indian Affairs, October 1889
Dr. Brigham Madsen, prominent historian of the early West wrote in his book, The Northern Shoshoni, "An ironic footnote to the educational troubles at Fort Hall came in a directive from the commissioner's office in August 1892 that all Indian schools were to hold an appropriate celebration in honor of Columbus Day in ‘line with practices and exercises of the public schools of this country.' Furthermore, the ‘interest and enthusiasm' of the children' were to be ‘thoroughly aroused.' No doubt many of the Shoshoni and Bannock wished Columbus had discovered some other country."
It is important to remember even the dark side of our history. All traces of the Lincoln Creek Boarding School are gone, but the Tribe is working to preserve The Lincoln Creek Day School. The Idaho Heritage Trust has been helping them do that with several grants in recent years. Once the renovation is completed, it will become a community center for that section of the reservation.