end of the Civil War many Americans started moving West. The migration
Americans to the southern plains spurred many conflicts with the
Americans were enrage about these
conflicts and advocated for reform of Indian policy. These Indian
called themselves the Friends of American Indians, and they believed
way to solve the Indian problem was to assimilate the Natives to white
They pentioned to end reservations and have Indian children go to
schools to learn how to be white.
To help them
with this, the Friends recruited Richard H. Pratt. Pratt was already
experienced with assimilating Natives. In 1875, Pratt was in charge of
assimilating 72 Indian prisoners from Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, and
Nations at Fort Augustine, Florida. Pratt thought that he should teach
Natives to be God-fearing farmers, just
like Euro-Americans. By the end of the three-year sentence, Pratt
that seventeen prisoners should enroll for higher education. Pratt and
believed that a co-ed boarding vocational school removed from the
would assimilate the Indian children into the white culture. In 1879,
acquired permission to open a boarding school in Carlisle,
Pennsylvania. In the
middle of the night on October 6, 1879, a group of 82 Indian children
Lakota Reservations arrived to Carlisle to a welcoming from the
lies from the BIA. With no supplies, the children were forced to sleep
floor. Once arriving at the school, children were forced to have their
hair cut short like a white person’s hair. Their culture was taken away
them and a new culture was forced upon them from the beginning.
and the government
success of Carlisle, many schools popped up all around the United
the end of the nineteenth century there were 25 boarding schools,
over 400 schools by 1920s. Many schools were run by Christian
funded by the government. There were over 100,000 Native children sent
schools all over the United States to become like the white Christian
Allotment Act of 1887, commonly known as the Dawes Act, incorporated
schools into the Act, forcing many Indian children to schools. The
agenda written into the Dawes Act became reality by the Commissioner of
Affairs Thomas Morgan. Morgan believed that an eight-year program would
the Indian children proficiency in the English language and a sixth
education. In 1890, Morgan added another year to the program. This
added kindergarten classes and a religious education.
In 1901, the
idea of what was better for Indian children changed. Estelle Reel
head of Indian Education, and believed that Indian children should
vocational skills over academics. She changed the curriculum to focus
vocational training like farming and basket making. This training was
help the Natives become self-sustaining. She believed these trades
school could bring in income for the tribe allowing them to become less
dependent on the United States and more like the dominant culture.
mid-1920s, there was a backlash of public acceptance of the boarding
Brookings Institute began an investigation and published a report
called The Problem of Indian
was also known as the Meriam Report. The report criticized the physical
condition of many boarding schools, the care of the students, and the
agenda at many schools.
Meriam Report was printed in many national magazines, the Hoover
gave more funding to schools. Many changes in the care of students took
The students were given a better diet, healthcare, and safer housing.
the suggestions in the report were made, except one of the most
the education curriculum never changed. Untill the end, most boarding
practiced vocational training.
The end of
forced assimilation came when John Collier was named Commissioner of
in 1935. From 1935 to 1966 most boarding schools closed. The ones that
open were controlled more by the tribes than the government, with an
on cultural heritage.
School life, and
arriving at the boarding schools,
children were forced to have their hair cut, to being washed in cruel
to dress in a new outfit that closely resembled white Americans-
uniforms for boys, and Victorian (often too tight) dresses for the
were forbidden to speak their tribal language, practice their religion,
their Indian name, and to practice their tribal culture.
became a military culture. Children were put into units and marched to
everyday. They did drills and were punished as if they were in the
School days consisted of half day of vocational training and half day
academics. Until the Meriam Report, many boarding schools were in
condition. Many students lived in the worst possible conditions and had
health care. Many children died while attending school.
summer, unlike other school children, many Indian children were forced
forced labor to obtain a work ethic envisioned by whie people. The
became a type of slave to be assimilated into the dominant culture.
conditions and the lack of respect from the officials set many children
away. When reading accounts of many Indian people that attended
schools, we get the feeling on how bad it was. The children the of
terribly sad and scared. Children would be beaten if they talked in
tribal language. Many did not understand what was happening because
not understand English. Children became scared of their heritage, and
forgot their culture and language.
were the boarding schools hurting the children at school, but once they
home, it was very hard for many to get accustomed to being there. Many
forgot their own language and could not even speak to their families.
were too scared to practice their heritage. This put a strain on the
relationships of the students and the tribes.
thought they were like white people and never came back to the
Others were too scared and went to the city. Denouncing their heritage
blending into the main culture. There were some who went straight back
old ways and others who went on to higher education and fighting for
smaller tribes, these children were the last of their great nations.
lost their language and also their identity. Many languages became
later years because none of the students knew them. For example, the
language became dormant in the 1960s because the last of the fluent
died. Miami was one tribe that was easily forced into assimilation
their small numbers and their relatively large intermarriages with
of the Indian boarding schools can still
be seen today. Many old boarding schools are now tribal schools, and
Lawrence, Kansas called Haskell became the only inter-tribal
tribes and native people are trying to regain their language and
were lost during the boarding school years. Indian boarding schools
a good idea, and their presence can still be seen today.
Schools." Humbult State
University. 12 Sep 2007
Landis, Barbara .
"Carlisle Indian Industrial School
History." 1996. 12 Sep 2007
Treaty Rights." Central
Michigan University Clarke Historical Library. March
1999. Clarke Historical Library. 12 Sep 2007