what were indian boarding schools primarily designed to do?
What were indian boarding schools primarily designed to do?
Note from Professor Dozier: This article outlines very well the legitimate complaints that Native American children and their families have struggled with for generations. It is also fair to say that in later years, particularly after the 1930s many Native Americans remember their time at Government boarding schools with some fondness, for it was the place where they met their future spouses and many made life-long friends they otherwise would never have made.
November/December 2008 issue ofPoverty & RaceThe following is a Feb. 2008 Shadow Report (lightly edited) submitted as a Response to the Periodic Report of the United States to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The full Report can be found here. See also the 2-part NPR series, May 12, 2008 (American Indian School a Far Cry from the Past) & May 13, 2008 (American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many). See also On the Reservation and Off, Schools See a Changing Tide, New York Times, May 25, 2008.
Brief HistoryDuring the 19th century and into the 20th century, American Indian children were forcibly abducted from their homes to attend Christian and U.S. government-run boarding schools as a matter of state policy. This system had its beginnings in the 1600s when John Eliot erected praying towns for American Indians, where he separated them out from their communities to receive Christian civilizing instruction. However, colonists soon concluded that such practices should be targeted towards children, because they believed adults were too set in their ways to become Christianized. Jesuit priests began developing schools for Indian children along the St. Lawrence River in the 1600s.However, the boarding school system became more formalized under the Grants Peace Policy of 1869/1870. The goal of this policy was to turn over the administration of Indian reservations to Christian denominations. As part of this policy, Congress set aside funds to erect school facilities to be run by churches and missionary societies. These facilities were a combination of day and boarding schools erected on Indian reservations.Then, in 1879, the first off-reservation boarding school, Carlisle, was founded by Richard Pratt.
Native Children in front of Pratt Boarding School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Are these the faces of happy children?
Sioux Children Arrive At Pratt Boarding School, 1879.
Happy Students: Some students reported happy experiences while at boarding school. Some may have left a tumultuous homelife for a more stable situation. Other students were not abused. Still other students became life-long friends, some even married after attending school together, like Robert (Cahuilla) and Esther (Navajo) Levi, both now deceased. A more important and contemporary function of the boarding schools was to bring Indian people from far-flung tribes together. This bringing together has been the basis of several resistance movements like the Mission Indian Federation and the American Indian Movement. Children who would otherwise never have known each other were brought together and became friends. From these friendships, a larger sense of what it means to be Indian has developed that includes all Indian people in America in a pan-Native movement that has rekindled strength and pride in Indian identity.