Shawnee Tribe Releases Plan to Save Shawnee Indian Mission


Shawnee Tribe Commits to Fully Fund Restoration Over Seven Years

On January 19, the Shawnee Tribe released “Save the Shawnee Indian Mission,” a plan that lays out a three-phase project to assess, stabilize, and fully restore the site and its buildings. The plan first calls for preparing a Historic Structures Report (HSR) and a Cultural Landscape Report (CLR). Widely considered foundational papers in the field of historic site preservation, the Tribe has already invested in the research and execution of these reports.

“The Shawnee Tribe has grown increasingly concerned about the condition of the Shawnee Indian Mission school site,” stated Shawnee Chief Ben Barnes. “ARG’s site conditions assessment resoundingly affirmed our fears about the deteriorating condition of the Mission, and we know that swift action must be taken.”

The second phase of the Tribe’s proposed plan focuses on “site stabilization” of the highest priority items in the recently released report from Architectural Resources Group (ARG), including repairing and replacing leaking roofs, foundation & window work that threaten the integrity of the buildings. 

The remainder of the 7-year plan includes the development of a Master Plan, an Interpretive Plan, continued repair of the buildings, and installing new interpretive displays to tell the site’s rich history fully.

Costs for the entire project could range as high as $14+ million, and the Tribe is committed to paying for the complete restoration of the site, pending conveyance of ownership.

“This is a sacred place for the Shawnee Tribe and many other tribes that had children attend here. My office has reached out to the tribal leaders whose nations had children at the Mission to convey our concerns about the site. The Mission is a crucial resource as America grapples with the consequences of Indian boarding schools, and it is also an important landmark in the history of the State of Kansas. This site is in immediate distress, and we need to act quickly. I am proud that the Shawnee Business Council has stepped up to commit the full funds necessary to preserve this site and keep it open to the public for generations to come,” said Chief Ben Barnes.



PDF – Save the Shawnee Indian Mission Site Restoration Plan


Maggie Boyett, Shawnee Tribe Chief Communications Officer

(918) 542-2441, ext. 137

Shawnee Indian Mission Manual Labor School

Established on October 28, 1839, the Shawnee Indian Mission Manual Labor School is one of North America’s earliest operating residential schools. Many Shawnee children resided at the mission, and questions remain as to whether there are Shawnee children buried on the site’s grounds, located in present-day Fairway, Kansas.

Now called the Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site, the mission’s grounds and its remaining buildings are currently operated by the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office, managed by the City of Fairway and supported by a private nonprofit foundation comprising local individuals.

Shawnee leadership encourages citizens to contact their U.S. congresspersons to urge them to support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy Act.

If you or a loved one have been affected by the historical trauma of Indian boarding schools, please reach out to someone. Click here for a list of resources from the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States


“The stories of human suffering at these institutions can no longer be hidden…”

On May 12, Chief Barnes testified before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States in support of H.R. 5444, “The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S. Act.”

This legislation would establish a federal commission to locate and make available the records from Indian boarding schools that operated in the U.S. Native American children were treated harshly at these schools which sought to “civilize” Native Americans by eliminating their culture and heritage. The Shawnee Indian Manual Labor Boarding School in Fairway, Kansas was one of over 400 such schools.

Testimony was also provided by survivors who personally experienced boarding schools and leaders of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in support of a national strategy to increase public awareness and cultivate healing for the profound trauma experienced by Native American individuals, families, and communities.

“It really sank in today that I’m the only federally recognized tribal leader that’s gonna be speaking today,” said Chief Barnes on his way to the hearing. “My daughter reminded me that there’s other tribes that need this story told—that need their truth told. That’s really the importance of this bill. It’s just the starting point.”

“182 years they’ve not let us talk about it,” he continued. “I’m tired of being told what not to talk about.”


Shawnee Tribe urges citizens and others to support this bill to establish a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools in the U.S. Find your Representative, State Senators, as well as Congress members.  

Find Your Congressional Contacts

  • H.R. 5444 (Rep. Sharice Davids, D-KS), To establish the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States, and for other purposes. “Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act.”

Companion Senate Bill

  • S. 2907 - To establish the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States, and for other purposes. Referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs


    September 30, 2021



Witness List, with links to submitted testimony:

James LaBelle, Sr. (testimony

1st Vice President and Boarding School Survivor

National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Matthew War Bonnet (testimony

Boarding School Survivor

 Rosebud Sioux Tribe

Dr. Ramona Charette Klein (testimony

Boarding School Survivor

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

The Honorable Ben Barnes (testimony


Shawnee Tribe

Deborah Parker (testimony

Chief Executive Officer

National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Dr. Janine Pease, D. Ed. (testimony

Founding President and Faculty Member

Little Big Horn College