Guideline: Educators will know about the past United States government policy to use schools to erase the cultural identity of American Indian students under the assumption this would "civilize" them and close the achievement gap.
Overview: Looking back on a 36-year career working for the United States Indian Bureau, Albert H. Kneale in his 1950 autobiography Indian Agent wrote when he started teaching in 1899, he found "the Indian Bureau, at that time, always went on the assumption that any Indian custom was, per se, objectionable, whereas the customs of whites were the ways of civilization." Starting in 1879 with the founding of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the Indian Bureau set up a system of boarding schools to take Indian youth away from their homes to "civilize" them through an English-only education and make "white men" of them away from the "savage" influences of their families.
In contrast, Kneale noted, "Every tribe with which I have associated is imbued with the idea that it is superior to all other peoples. Its members are thoroughly convinced of their superiority not alone over members of all other tribes but over the whites as well.... I have never known an Indian who would consent to being changed into a white man even were he convinced that such a change could readily be accomplished."
The conflict between the assimilationist goals of U.S. Indian policy and the views of American Indians who wanted to remain "Indian" made American Indian education a problematic experience for many Indians. Individual educators often recognized the negative effects of this conflict on American Indian children. In 1917, the Superintendent of the Ponca Agency in Oklahoma related a story of "an old Ponca Indian, now dead, [who] once said that it takes Chilocco three years to make a White man out of an Indian boy, but that when the boy comes home and the tribe has a feast, it takes but three days for the tribe to make the boy an Indian again."
An investigation of the Indian Bureau initiated by Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work and published in 1928 as The Problem of Indian Administration (popularly known as the Meriam Report) noted, "The philosophy underlying the establishment of Indian boarding schools, that the way to 'civilize' the Indian is to take Indian children, even very young children, as completely as possible away from their home and family life, is at variance with modern views of education and social work, which regard the home and family as essential social institutions from which it is generally undesirable to uproot children."
This link to the Library of Congress' website provides a teacher lesson plan on Indian Boarding Schools. Recommended for grades 6-9 the lesson plan provides supporting resources, a teacher's guide and a student's page.
From the 1880s through the 1920s, the "assimilationists" saw the non-reservation boarding school as the best way to make young Indian children accept white men's beliefs and value systems. This reference provides an overview of this period.
An essay by Carolyn J. Marr, an anthropologist and photographs librarian at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, Washington, providing a historical perspective on Indian boarding schools in the Pacific Northwest.
This resource offers a historical overview of the Carlisle Indian School and the students who attended the school.
This link is to the website of the Chemawa Indian School of Salem, Oregon. This boarding school dates back to the 1870s when the U.S. government authorized a boarding school for Indian children in the northwest. It is the oldest continuing boarding school operating in the United States.
This resource from the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University provides an overview of Indian education from 1870-1933. The review offers educators a synopsis of the history of Indian education during that time period.
This resource provides a historical overview of the Ft. Lewis Indian School, located in southwest Colorado, and students who attended the school.
This National Library of Medicine resource offers an online version of a 1994 exhibit on health care to Native Americans. This document presents Indian school hospitals under the Office of Indian Affairs during the period of 1883 - 1916. It offers educators insights into how health care and health education was provided at the Indian schools.
Purpose: To ensure educators working with American Indian students are aware of past efforts at improving the academic achievement of these students, the limited success of these efforts, and current federally funded Indian education programs