Bureau of Indian Affairs School, Tundra Street, Bethel, Bethel Census Area, AK
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Tundra Street, Bethel, AK
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Documentation compiled after 1933.
Survey number HABS AK-186
Significance: The process of acculturating Yupik Eskimos of Western Alaska to western culture became focused in Bethel, Alaska with the establishment there in 1885 of a Moravian mission. The Moravians, financially supported by the Federal Bureau of Education, initiated formal Western education in Bethel for Yupik children, and for most of the next twenty-five years maintained a boarding and day school. In the 1910's diminishing missionary support lead to the closure of the boarding school, with the Bureau of Education staffing the remaining day school with non-Moravian teachers. In 1931, the Bureau of Education's responsibilities for Yupik education were shifted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with separate facilities for Native education remaining until 1947. Thereafter, Yupik students were educated in integrated Alaska territorial schools with white children of the Bethel area. The last non-integrated facility used prior to 1947 for Yupik schooling was constructed coincidentally also in 1931 Though vacant in 1991 and transferred out of Federal ownership to the Bethel Native Corporation as part of a larger land exchange, the "Old BIA School" remained as an architecturally imposing symbol of a long tradition of educating local and regional Yupik children, including a philosophy of segregation predominant until the twentieth century. The school's appearance, as a two-story, modified hip-roofed, frame Cape Cod style building, with a dormer window from the second story below a cupola on top, made the structure architecturally significant within the community.
Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)
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