The property currently home to the Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) in Tomah was originally the site of the Tomah Indian Industrial School which operated from 1891 to 1935. In 1891, the United States government chose Tomah as the most acceptable location for a new Indian school to serve the state and surrounding area. The stated purpose of the Tomah Indian School was to “give the children a literary education and practical instruction so they could not only earn a living, but also get ahead in the world.” On January 19, 1893, the school opened with seven employees and seven students. Over the next 40 years, several buildings were constructed, the site was expanded, and student population grew. The school housed about 400 students at its prime, mostly from the Ho-Chunk tribe. “Indian schools,” like the one in Tomah, represented a growing national effort to assist impoverished Native Americans, who many saw struggling after being thrust into the “White Man’s world,” by indoctrinating them into mainstream America. While students received food, shelter, education, and clothing, they were often denied their own language, customs, and traditions.

On Thursday, May 12th at 7pm, local historians and authors Kevin and Patsy Alderson will share the history of the Tomah Indian Industrial School, examining the motives for and consequences of the Indian Boarding School system. The program will be held at the Monroe County Local History Room & Museum, 200 W. Main St., Sparta. A $1 admission donation is appreciated to help defray programming costs. For more info call 608-269-8680 or visit

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