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Race, Religion & Social Justice

Photo Essay: Alumni from Intermountain Indian School Come Together And Paint the 'I' In Brigham City

A group photo of former students and teachers.
Ivana Martinez
/
KUER
Every couple of years, former students and teachers reunite in Brigham City to remember their time at Intermountain.

A few months ago, alumni of Intermountain Indian School found out there was a petition in Brigham City to get rid of the ‘I’ on the mountain. The singular, white letter is a reminder of the school’s past. Many Americans are just now learning about schools like Intermountain, following the discoveries earlier this year of hundreds of Indigenous bodies buried in unmarked graves outside residential schools in Canada.

Similar schools existed throughout the U.S., and the U.S. Department of the Interior is now investigating the country’s boarding school system. Native advocates in Utah hope schools here will also be investigated, including Intermountain.

KUER’s Ivana Martinez joined alumni of the school as they gathered Friday to restore the “I” on the mountainside.

A photo of a woman talking to people in a car parked next to her.
Ivana Martinez
Lorina Antonio coordinates with Gerald George to get up the mountain. They take several trucks up, hitting the rocky trails.
A photo of people taking beverages out of a cooler in the trunk of a car.
Ivana Martinez
Family members unloaded water, beverages and food for the reunion as they prepared to start painting. Former teachers and students came together to celebrate their forgotten history. “It’s so good to see the success that we aided, that the school has made possible for,” said former teacher Mary Rollins.
A photo of people climbing up a hill and holding buckets of paint.
Ivana Martinez
Several alumni traveled from out of state to get to Brigham City. Many came from places like Washington, New Mexico, Arizona and Montana. Antonio said it's like a family reunion.
People hiking up a stone-filled hill.
Ivana Martinez
Family members of a former teacher, trek up the mountain bringing water and paint to restore the ‘I’ for Intermountain Indian Boarding School.
An aerial view of the former boarding school.
Ivana Martinez
Native students from across the country came to this boarding school in 1950. Many came from out of state. Antonio said the school was shut down because of continuous health issues.
A photo of a man working on a mountain.
Ivana Martinez
Ivan Penningjack graduated in 1983. He said this is his second time painting the ‘I’ and there was something incredibly special about the boarding school.
A photo of three woman standing and sitting together.
Ivana Martinez
“Jo” Ronnda Ross, left, traveled from New Mexico to attend her first reunion. She said the school opened up so many possibilities for her. “I don’t think anybody would have been able to experience what we went through,” Ross said.
A photo of people sitting on stones.
Ivana Martinez
Lorraine Pablo, left, attended the school in 1976. She and her husband have attended the reunions that have been held every couple of years. She said it’s really special to see everyone come together.
A photo of a baseball cap on someone's head. It reads 'Native pride.'
Ivana Martinez
For many of the alumni, the Intermountain Indian Boarding School helped them find community and family. Most keep in touch through Facebook groups.

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