The Indian Boarding Schools In the late 1800s, Captain Richard Henry Pratt set out to “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”(A Plea to “Citizenize” Indians). The goal to erase Indian cultures and replace it with white American culture was sought to be achieved through boarding schools. Pratt was the creator of the first Indian boarding school: Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. These government-funded boarding schools would take children from their homes on reservation, often for them to not see their family again until they are grown(lecture). Pratt’s goal was to eliminate the Indian culture and incorporate the Indian people into the more “civilized”(Marr) American culture. This meant forcing the Indian students to speak only English and to give up all cultural traditions, religions, names and take up Christianity and American sounding names. Students were put into these boarding schools with little or no contact with their families for “eight to nine months of the year” (Marr). These schools operated with minimal funds, so the education was very insufficient. It was clear from the beginning; the actual goal was not to give quality education for the Native American children but to get rid of the Indian culture. The conditions within these boarding schools were often very poor for students. They were underfunded and created on a basis of racism. There were two types of these schools: boarding schools and the mission schools. The boarding schools were funded by the government, and in the beginning were well-funded and well-staffed. Over time though, congress felt that money for these schools would better fit elsewhere so as admission increased over the years, the funds continued to decrease. These boarding schools were all fairly similar in that they were structured under a military-type-school, they required strictly English education, and focused on farming education. The mission schools were funded by both the church and government, these incorporated religious and academic education for the children. These mission schools mostly focused on the study of Christianity and discouraged any other spiritual practices (Marr).To discourage these Native American children from practicing their religion, the teachers would beat the children if they spoke any native languages or carried on any religious rituals from their previous life (lecture). Deserting was common among the students, because of the poor funding and overcrowdedness, often disease would rapidly spread, there would be lacks of proper food, all this resulting in the death of many students. However, when these students tried to desert they would be punished as Helma Ward(Makah) describes: “Two of our girls ran away…but they got caught. They tied their legs up, tied their hands behind their backs, put them in the middle of the hallway so that if they fell, fell asleep or something, the matron would hear them and she’d get out there and whip them and make them stand up again.” (Helma Ward, Makah, interview with Carolyn Marr) These conditions made the boarding schools more like prisons than schools, with an objective that would later be referred to as cultural genocide.I chose this topic because this was where I realized how little I actually knew about American History. This class in general opened my eyes to many big things that I felt like have been glossed over or completely ignored in previous classes. The Indian boarding schools being a prime example of this. This causes me to think about how our focus on WWII and the Cold War and how we tend to blame other countries such as Germany and Russia in our movies and videogames and other medias for all the bad things in the world and our history. When in reality, America is just as much of an instigator if not more so of the worst things that have happened in our recent history. Stories such as these make me interested in historical context of white Americans relationships between other races. Just the other day I was thinking about how interesting it is that our anti-Japanese sentiments of WWII have not been relevant in decades while the white Americans racial bias toward black Americans is still very much alive. I think all Americans should read into this to develop an understanding of our real history and share empathy with our fellow humans.
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