The Greenville Investigation: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Boarding School Runaways
Date of Award
Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies
First Reader/Committee Chair
Indian boarding schools were created by the United States government in the nineteenth century in order to “civilize” and assimilate American Indians. In this research, I utilize public information regarding the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) crisis in the United States as well as primary documents from a report by Special Agent Lafayette Dorrington of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Dorrington investigated the case of five American Indian girls who ran away from the Greenville Indian Industrial School in 1916.
I will refer to the documents as “The Greenville Investigation” instead of Dorrington’s title- “The Greenville Desertion” - because the term “desertion” was used by school officials to equate student runaways with disloyal military members and I find this woefully inaccurate. The documents are important within the scope of Indian boarding school history and general American Indian history because they show a narrative of resistance, ignorant paternalism, scapegoating, and victim-blaming in which young girls were failed by an institution that was in place to protect and help them. Historians have not yet written about these specific documents, nor have they written heavily about female runaways as a form of resistance, the aftermath of tragedies akin to this one, or analyzed the parallels between the Indian boarding school system and today’s MMIW crisis in the U.S.
The epidemic of unaccounted MMIW in the United States today has failed to gain the traction necessary to hold law enforcement agencies accountable in tracking and solving these cases. Many cases in the past and today have been simply closed with an innocuous statement of hypothermia as a cause of death, failing to acknowledge other factors. I will discuss the history of the Indian education system in the United States, analyze and write about the documents in “The Greenville Investigation,” and draw parallels between the failures of the boarding school system and today’s crisis of MMIW.
Mook, Kate, "The Greenville Investigation: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Boarding School Runaways" (2020). Electronic Theses, Projects, and Dissertations. 990.
Indigenous Studies Commons, United States History Commons, Women's History Commons, Women's Studies Commons