A Look Back at the Teller Institute at Grand Junction Regional Center
The Grand Junction Regional Center has a history in the Grand Valley that dates back all the way to 1885. The view from google maps (above) shows off the entire area of the compound that was once part of the Teller Institute which was a boarding school for American Indians until 1921.
At one time, about 200 students enrolled at the Teller Institute with students from the Ute, Navajo, Papago, Moquis, Shoshone, and Pima Indians families. According to CPR News, the students were removed from their customs, native language, and even their given names while attending. By 1910, the Federal Government decided to return the Native Americans to their homes to continue their education, and by July of 1911, the Teller Institute was closed for good. The land was then given to the State of Colorado.
A Look Back at the Teller Institute in Grand Junction
Colorado's Senator Henry Teller was not a fan of the Ute Indian presence in Grand Junction. A popular opinion of the time was that assimilation into the white culture was only possible when native Americans like the ones at Teller Institute were completely removed from their surroundings and dunked into the mainstream white culture at a boarding school or through a community outing program.
Teller, who was also Secretary of the Interior under Chester Arthur (1882-1885), lobbied Congress for approval of an off-reservation school to assimilate the Utes in Western Colorado. This began with the Grand Junction Indian School in 1886, which soon changed its name to the Teller Institute.
Cemetery at Teller Institute
During the years of the Teller Institute, it is said that as many as 21 students died there while attending. Even more tragic is that the records of the cemetery became lost during the years after it was closed. There are accounts that claim there was an unearthing, and reinterment of the dead to Orchard Mesa Cemetery, but these accounts can not be confirmed according to Colorado Encyclopedia. The actual location of the Indian burials remains lost, as there is no known map or photography that can pinpoint its location on the grounds of the Regional Center in present-day Grand Junction.
State Home for Mental Defectives
For several years the Teller Institute buildings sat vacantly, and in poor condition. With the Federal Government giving the land back to the state of Colorado, in 1921 a training facility was open at the old Teller Institute which was named the State Home for Mental Defectives. This facility catered to handicapped and students with mental and learning disabilities. By 1960 there were close to 800 people living at the facility. Some of the patients went to school while others worked on a dairy farm located on state-owned land. By the 1970s, the name was changed to the Grand Junction Regional Center.
The Veteran's Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado
By the early 2000s, only three of the buildings on the original Teller Institute are still standing. The state built other buildings over the years and even some of those are no longer standing. By 1999, AsylumProjects.org reports that the State of Colorado deeded about 25 acres of land on the east side of the campus to the Department of Veterans Affairs. This land was to be used as a Veterans' Cemetery. The Veteran's Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado was dedicated in July of 2002.
A Portion of the Grand Junction Regional Center Has Been Sold
Earlier this week in a story shared by KJCT8.com, it's reported that a portion of the Regional Center land is being sold. Members of the community are concerned that the issue of the cemetery needs to be resolved before anything is done with the land. The Colorado Department of Human Services is also looking into this. There are still a few families living on the property, so the sale and any further development won't be able to continue until those residents are moved off the grounds. This will allow for a little more time to look into the matter of the cemetery.
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