Mesa (Tuba City)

It would be impossible to visualize the Tuba City into which Zane Grey rode in 1922 without mentioning the town's American Indian boarding school which was established in 1898 and continues as both a BIA day and boarding school today.

American Indian students (mostly Navajo) at the boarding school in Tuba City, Arizona.

The Vanishing American: Perhaps ninety-nine out of a hundred students returned to the old life, the hogan and the sheep. They could not help but carry ideas of better life, better methods, better management. They could understand English and knew the value of money and of a trade. So that whether they liked it or not they were somewhat better equipped to meet the inroads of the white man. These advantages, however, were negligible, especially in case of the Indian girls, when compared with the disadvantages of the compulsory school system. Marian inclined more and more to the conviction that the whole government school and reservation system was wrong. (Chapter XIV)


Rather than providing a quote from “Down Into the Desert”, we are including a concluding statement from a 2022 analysis by the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding its involvement in the forced assimilation of American Indian people, including boarding schools:

Bureau of Indian Affairs: For nearly two full centuries, the United States pursued, embraced, or permitted a policy of forced assimilation of American Indian people. The Federal Indian boarding school system was developed to target Indian children to accomplish this policy objective for over 150 years…The Department must fully account for its role in this effort and renounce forced assimilation of Indian Tribes as a legitimate policy objective. To begin the process of healing from the harm and violence caused by assimilation policy, the Department should affirm an express policy of cultural revitalization— supporting the work of Indian Tribes... to revitalize their languages, cultural practices, and traditional food systems, and to protect and strengthen intra-Tribal relations.

(These images of Tuba City and the American Indian school were taken twenty years before Zane Grey's 1922 visit.  However, images of the school are especially poignant because they were taken by Walter Runke, the inspiration for an important character in The Vanishing American.)

American Indian students lined up for dinner at the boarding school in Tuba City. Note dinner bell at the end of the dining hall. 

In addition to the boarding school, Grey likely visited the Tuba Trading Post to buy supplies for his adventure.

The Vanishing American: A white man appeared, tall, sandy-haired, and open-faced.

"Come in. I'm Paxton, the trader," he said. "My wife is always glad to meet visitors. You must be tired and hungry. And it's a good way to Kaidab."

"Thank you, I am hungry, but not tired," replied Marian, as she followed him in, wondering how he had learned where she was going. He led her through a huge hall-like storeroom, in which counters and shelves were loaded with merchandise, to another part of the house, into a living room, comfortable and pleasant. There Marian met the trader's wife, a young and comely woman who was most kindly and agreeable. Neither by word nor by look did she manifest any curiosity. She was merely glad to meet a strange visitor and to give her a little rest and refreshment. Marian liked her.