Children as young as 4 years old were separated from their families for months at a time as they attended the school, which focused its training on domestic arts. In keeping with the thinking of the day, Indian culture and language were seen as the culprits that kept American Indians from becoming American citizens. Children were routinely punished for speaking their language or disobeying the military-style rules of the school. Punishment included incarceration in a jail on campus. The lock from the jail cell is on display today at the school’s cultural center.
In 1887 Congress renamed the school Haskell Institute in honor of US Representative (KS) Dudley Haskell. The enrollment of the Industrial School jumped to 400 students by its second semester, and by 1894 approximately 600 students represented 36 states.