The Field Matron’s Cottage was built on the grounds of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in 1927 to house the activities of the field matron, who served under a program of the Bureau of Indian Affairs that provided instruction in sanitation and hygiene as well as emergency nursing services. The field matron also taught Indian girls housekeeping and other household duties aimed at cultural assimilation, a prominent government policy at the time. The field matron program was ultimately eliminated and health care was placed under the purview of the Indian Health Service.
The population of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in 1927 was around 160 people. Roughly one-third were Washoe and two-thirds were Northern Paiute. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony was established in 1916 by an Act of Congress. The term “colony” for a type of Indian territory is unique to Nevada. Indian colonies were intended to provide adequate living conditions to Indian families, although sufficient aid was slow to arrive. The Washoes and Northern Paiutes were forced to build the best homes they could with limited resources--typically, one-room shacks without electricity or modern conveniences. It took nearly ten years of pleading by the agency superintendent to get the funds to build the Field Matron’s Cottage, which served the field matron and later the public health nurse. Today, the cottage houses the Tribal Police.
The Field Matron’s Cottage is modest in size and stylistically reflects the principles of the Arts-and-Crafts movement. More specifically, it might be called Stewart Vernacular, a localized style developed by Frederick Snyder, who served as the superintendent of the Stewart Indian School (est. 1877), in Carson City, Nevada from 1919 to 1934. Snyder’s program provided hands-on experience in the building trades, integrating an architectural style that was sensitive to the school’s western environment, the principles of the Arts-and-Crafts movement, and the students’ cultures. Snyder made a conscious—and successful—effort to establish an architectural identity for the school. Snyder’s apprentices constructed a number of buildings off-campus, particularly at Lake Tahoe.
The Field Matron’s Cottage was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in May 2003, the first Bureau of Indian Affairs property in Nevada to be so recognized.