Mission History Faculty and Staff Videos
A Tradition of Service
Holbrook Indian School was born of the vision of Marvin and Gwen Walter, pastor and registered nurse. The Walters came to Winslow, Arizona in 1941, determined to enrich the lives of Navajo Indians on the nearby Indian Reservation.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought change to the Reservation as the young Navajo men went off to the war. Helping with registration paperwork, Walter became acquainted with most of the Reservation men and their families.
In his work, Walter discovered that the education available in the reservation schools was substandard. In addition, most of the children on the Reservation were not able to attend any school due to transportation problems. Over 80% of the people knew no other language than Navajo, and 98% could not read or write in any language.
Walter became convinced that to meet educational needs while overcoming transportation difficulties, a boarding school needed to be established. Legislation enacted during the war prohibited the lease of Tribal land for an indefinite period. Looking for property off the reservation, Walter found 300 acres with all utilities. This property was purchased in 1945.
Although building materials were rationed during the war, Walter found what was needed to construct a single building. This building functioned as the administrative office, classrooms, and even dormitories, up until the mid 1950's. School was officially opened in September 1946, with 30 students in grades 1-8.
Over the years much growth has taken place, including construction of many of the campus buildings. Besides changes on campus, curriculum has changed as well. In the late 1950's several grades were added, first the ninth, the next year the 10th, and then the eleventh. Grade 12 was added in the 1971-72 school year.
Volunteerism and philanthropy have brought new life to Holbrook Indian School. Recent additions include new staff housing and a new girls' dormitory. The dormitory was donated in loving memory of Ruth McKee by her children and the McKee Foods Corporation, best known as the makers of Little Debbie® Snack Cakes.
In anticipation of the goals yet to be reached, Holbrook Indian School remains committed to the Walter's tradition of service: Enriching the lives of our Nation's first people.
"The Life Story of Marvin Ross Walter - Missionary to the Native Americans"