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Indian Boarding School Tattoos Among Female American Indian Students (1960s-1970s): Phoenix Indian School, Santa Rosa Boarding School, Fort Wingate Boarding School

Tattooing in the federal Indian boarding school system appears to have been common among the student body, but the practice is not well documented. A search of the literature on Native education, focusing on boarding schools, yielded only fragments of references to tattooing because there has been no substantive or detailed research on Indian boarding school tattoos. One brief narrative from Celia Haig-Brown (1988), however, illustrates the commonality and the dangers of tattooing. This study examines tattoos among female students who attended Indian boarding schools in the Southwest during the 1960s-1970s. The personal accounts of my mother's experience in tattooing at the Phoenix Indian School provide a baseline for this study. My study explores an undocumented area of boarding school history and student experiences. Many students from various tribes tattooed. The tattoos most often included small initials and markings, and my analysis concludes that the meanings were mostly related to resistance.


Martina Dawley


K. Tsianina Lomawaima





Arizona State Museum: 

M9791 D24i


AAT 1464083
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences