Educating the Indian, Part 1 (L19) Residential Boarding Schools

Educating the Indian, Part 1 (L19)
Residential Boarding Schools
Dr. Anton Treuer
Bemidji State University
Solving the “Indian Problem,” 1880s
• Annihilate (war)
• Concentrate away from white (removal &
• Break up tribal control of remaining land
• Cultural assimilation (mission work &
Indian Education Debate
• John Oberly (BIA): gradual indoctrination, day
schools for young kids, residential boarding
schools for older kids
• Captain Richard Henry Pratt (POW camp for
Apache at St. Augustine, FL): immediate
assimilation, “kill the Indian in order to save
the man,” immediate residential boarding
schools for all Indian youth
“Our goal is to kill the Indian in order
to save the man.” —Pratt
Pratt with Apache prisoners at St.
Augustine, Florida
Carlisle Indian Industrial School, 18791918
Not about GIVING an education
About TAKING AWAY tribal culture
Carlisle military barracks converted to school
School was industrial
Boys dug ditches, performed manual labor
half day, girls sewed, cleaned, cooked half day
First US Congressional Committee on
Indian Affairs, 1818
• “In the present state of our country, one of
two things seems to be necessary: either that
those sons of the forest should be moralized
or exterminated.”
T.J. Morgan, Commissioner of Indian
Affairs, 1889-1893
• “I do not believe that Indians… people who for
the most part speak no English, live in squalor
and degradation, make little progress from year
to year, who are a perpetual source of expense to
the government and a constant menace to
thousands of their white neighbors, a hindrance
to civilization and a clog on our progress have any
right to forcibly keep their children out of school
to grow up like themselves, a race of barbarians
and semi-savages.”
Physical Make-over
• Hair cut
• Traditional clothes discarded, military
• March to and from class
• Beatings for speaking a tribal language
• Forcible removal from the home
• No or limited parental contact (no visits, or
only at parent expense, letters not sent) –
government feared “lapse into old ways” and
“parents pulling down their own kids”
• Often sent 1,000+ miles away
• Summers often with white families
• Parents and extended family disempowered
BIA Commissioner, 1899
• “This education policy is based on the well
known inferiority of the great mass of Indians
in religion, intelligence, morals, and home
After School
• Kids pressured to find work and habitation far
from reservations
• Race barrier in U.S. made employment elusive
• Many drifted back to reservations
Home on the Rez
• Many kids could not recognize their parents
and vice versa
• Many kids could not speak the same language
as their own parents
• They were often assimilated, but at a heavy
price: emotional harm, destroyed families
• Military effect: hard for volunteering adults,
pure hell for 6 year kid
BIA Boarding Schools (Government)
• Carlisle, PA; Phoenix, AZ, Flandreau, SD
• 25 govt. schools in operation by 1899 with
20,000+ new students every year
• Carlisle had 58 tribes represented in final year
of operation
Private Mission Schools
• Similar industrial model
• Similar harsh punishments for speaking of
tribal languages
• Sexual abuse more commonly reported
Bad Reputation
• 1918 Influenza outbreak (nationwide) was especially
devastating at the schools, 300 die at Haskell, KS, alone
• By 1900 over half res. Boarding school kids had
trachoma (eye disease)
• Tuberculosis rampant
• Poor diet for students reported
• Carlisle, Haskell and other school kept cemeteries for
kids (bodies not even sent home for burial)
• Carlisle closes in 1918, but others enroll even more
Meriam Report, 1928
• Blasts schools for poor nutrition, poor health
care, insufficient clothing, exceedingly harsh
physical punishment, disempowerment of
John Collier, 1933-1945
• Tries to establish day school options
• Great Depression & WWII actually increase
enrollment – parents want kids fed and don’t
often know what happens to their kids
BIA Boarding Schools Today
Santa Fe controlled by Pueblos
Haskell now only all-Indian university in world
Chilocco and Phoenix closed in the Reagan era
Still a few in operation like Flandreau, but
Unintended Consequences
Rise in pan-Indian sentiment
Marriages, friendships
Greater native resolve, common struggle
Heightened sense of otherness
Long Term Effects
• In USA, grandparent generation went through
system, and often 3 generations before them
• In Canada, parent generation went through
system (started later, ended later)
• Generations of Indians with language and
culture beaten out of them
• How does one learn how to parent
• Roots of identity issues, alcoholism,
Language Loss
• 183 tribal languages spoken in USA and
Canada today, only 20 still spoken by kids, only
4 with large vibrant language communities
• Many speakers chose not to teach their kids to
protect them from persecution
Tribal Languages in U.S. & Canada
Indian Attitude Towards Education
• Still a widely held belief that getting an
education means getting “white-washed”
• Still a widely held belief that educated means
• Still a widely held distrust of educators, school
Education Achievement
Apache Kids at Carlisle
Before & After Year 1
Free Resources & Videos
Good Books
• David Wallace, Education for Extinction:
American Indians and the Boarding School
Experience 1875-1928
• Brenda Child, Boarding School Seasons:
American Indian Families, 1900-1940