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