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Fort Simcoe Historical State Park
East (front) elevation of commandant's house - Fort Simcoe, Commandant's House and Blockhouse, Fort Simcoe Road, White Swan, Yakima County, WA HABS WASH,39-WHIT.V,1-6.tif
Commandant's House
Location Yakima, Washington, United States
Area 200 acres (81 ha)
Elevation 1,401 ft (427 m)
Established 1856-1859
Operator Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
Website Fort Simcoe State Park
Fort Simcoe State Park
WhiteSwan FortSimcoe Blockhouse.jpg
Fort Simcoe blockhouse, ca. 1930s (HABS archives)
Location Yakima County, SW of Yakima on SR-220
Nearest city Yakima, Washington
Built 1856
Architect Robert Seldon Garnett; Louis Scholl
Architectural style Gothic Revival
NRHP reference No. 74001994
Added to NRHP June 27, 1974

Fort Simcoe was a United States Army fort erected in south-central Washington Territory to house troops sent to keep watch over local Indian tribes. The site and remaining buildings are preserved as Fort Simcoe Historical State Park, located eight miles (13 km) west of modern White Swan, Washington, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

History

The site was a school for tribes of Indigenous peoples of the Americas from areas all around the present state of Washington. Prior to 1850, the site was used as a school where Native American children taken from their families were forced to cease practicing traditional customs and speak English, a specific practice in ethnocide. Punishment for non-compliant children included imprisonment in a small jail.

The fort was built in the late 1850s in an old oak grove watered by natural springs by future Civil War general Robert S. Garnett. The fort was in use for three years. The park was established in 1956.

The fort was built in the middle of the Yakima Valley and the Yakama Tribe's traditional fishing areas. This prime location allowed soldiers of the new commander to keep an eye out for visitors to the tribe and basically keep an eye on the tribe. The relations of the White soldiers and tribes can serve as a dark time in US government relations. Fort Simcoe can be labeled as a program of an act of cultural genocide. Fort Simcoe is viewed this way because the U.S. government decided to merge 14 different tribes and to teach them American culture. The tribes were to learn famous Americans and given Christian/American names. In 1922, the U.S. government decided to move the Indian agency from Fort Simcoe to Toppenish which triggered extreme emotions of past feelings of relocations for generations of the original tribes. The location of the fort also provided easy trading routes established by waterway or railroad. Seeing that the fort is United States government property, a certain architect designed and constructed the fort, Louis Scholl. Fort Simcoe is similar to the design of Fort Dalles where there are blockhouses at each corners but no stockade allowing barracks to define the fortification. James Harvey Wilbur and Captain Frederick Dent took of the challenge of creating a road passage to Fort Simcoe. They said, "the fort's location also fits perfectly with the army strategic goal to carve out a road system that connected California with Washington Territory". This quote demonstrates the determination to get to Fort Simcoe and how naturally it can be easy to get there but it is all based around strategic movements by the government.

Park and museum

Fort Simcoe Historical State Park is a 200-acre (0.81 km2), day-use heritage park on the Yakama Indian Reservation. The park is primarily an interpretive effort, telling the story of mid-19th-century army life and providing insights into the lifeways of local Native Americans. Five original buildings are still standing at the fort: the commander's house, three captain's houses, and a blockhouse. Various other buildings have been recreated to appear original. Houses are filled with period furnishings. The park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The interpretive center, the original commander's house and two officer's buildings with period furnishings open to the public from April through September on Wednesday through Sunday. The original blockhouse and other recreated fort buildings are not open to the public. Special re-enactments and living history events are held during the year, as well as other special events.

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