My hope for this essay is that you will come away with an understanding of how the American Government and the Religious institutions that were in fact a significant part of the Government in the late 19th century and early 20th century were able to systematically work toward the elimination of the Native Peoples culture, language and heritage.  These schools were little more than indoctrination camps for the religious teaching of the evangelical Christian and Catholic religions.  They provided increased funding and national spotlighting in their crusade to assimilate the Native Peoples into the American mainstream.  That more money flowed into the church coffers than flowed into the schools that it was designed to support is an atrocity.  One school, Haskell in Lawrence, KS was so under funded that in its first several years of existence, more than 20 Indian children died in the bitter plains winters because of inadequate heating.

I have been honored in meeting with some of those children that were taken from their homes in the early 20th century.  They had realigned themselves with their tribes and had become elders of their communities.  I listened with heartfelt gratitude that I was not born in the era when being an Indian meant you had no civil rights, you were a ward of the federal government and were consistently lied to, cheated and told that you were less human than the white person that was sent there to teach you how to become an American.

Many of you will be shocked, many will be remorseful and many more of you will want to know what can I do today to help mitigate this great injustice that was perpetuated upon an entire culture.  The answer is simple, support Native American rights, write letters to the editor concerning Native American issues, tell you Congress people that you support the full accounting of the Native American trust account.  Visit a reservation, talk to an Indian, and find out what needs they are lacking and ask them what you can do today to help them fulfill their needs.

“”””””””””””””””””””””More below the fold””””””””””””””””””””””

Crossposted at European Tribune and My Left Wing

Perhaps the most fundamental conclusion that emerges from boarding school histories is the profound complexity of their historical legacy for Indian people’s lives.  The diversity among boarding school students in terms of age, personality, family situation, and cultural background created a range of experiences, attitudes, and responses. Boarding schools embodied both victimization and agency for Native people, and they served as sites of both cultural loss and cultural persistence. These institutions, intended to assimilate Native people into mainstream society and eradicate Native cultures, became integral components of American Indian identities and eventually fueled the drive for political and cultural self-determination in the late twentieth century.

One must first understand that the boarding schools in my estimation, based upon the research that I have done, is this:  these schools were designed with one purpose, the cultural, psychological and intellectual waging of war upon Native students.  This war had one end, to achieve the enculturation of Native children into the American mainstream.  In effect turn them into Americans.  How this change started was first to take these children from their families and place them into the boarding schools.  Upon arrival this is what happened.

The children were met by school administrators and teachers and told this is your new name.  Then they were taken to have their hair cut, their clothing removed and in many cases, subjected to delousing and physical examinations that were dehumanizing to say the least.  Most native cultures adhered to a highly developed sense of hygiene.  Their entire diet and concept of time and spatial relationships were then dissolved and they were told this is how you will live.  Their language was suppressed, if spoken aloud they were punished severely for speaking it.  They were subjected to a militaristic regime that place English, Christianity and the ritualistic use of American cultural practices to further them into a place of Patriotism and Citizenship.  For many they were indoctrinated into the narrow gender roles provided by the Fundamentalist of the time.  Manual labor and Domestic skills were the primary educational opportunities provided by the schools.  The sad fact for these children was this assault upon their culture caused bewilderment, estrangement, melancholy and hostility toward not only the school, but also their families, for having allowed this to happen to them.

That this institutional attack upon an entire race of people was allowed to happen in the US, to me is reprehensible.  Taking into consideration the mores and values of the American culture in that time, I can understand how and why it was allowed to happen.  I find today that many on the religious right, those Christians that feel that their way is the only way and therefore they are going to institutionalize their beliefs into our society by taking over our entire governmental structures, suggest to me that this injustice can occur again.  These injustices will not only happen to the Native peoples, but any group of people that is deemed unworthy or not sufficiently pious enough in their subjugation to the Christian God.  Listening to the stories of these elders and what happened to them and how they strived to keep and maintain their cultural identities were amazing and made me hope that I too could summon the courage and integrity to hold onto my own identity.  Here are just a few of the ways these people who were under attack strived to protect themselves and their cultures.

Unfortunately many students acquiesced to the demands placed upon them, but for many they resisted the assaults upon their very character as a human being.  Some used covert methods such as insulting names for members of the staff or administration.  Others used letter writing to try and manipulate the authority of the school. Others continued to practice their traditions in secret through the use of stories, dances and gamesmanship.  There were others who were more covert in their practices of resistance to this authority.  They would start fights with other students, staff or faculty.  Others would become more destructive, setting fires or destroying books, desks or even their clothing.  On the other side, there were the parents who helped facilitate resistance, by not sending their children to the schools, or sending orphaned or less desirable children in place of their own children.  There were constant complaints filed to Indian agents, school administrators about the quality of their children’s education and its lack of emphasis on tribal relationships and the cultural values of the tribes when they were allowed home visits.

Here is a link to a conversation between an Indian Commissioner and Chief Joseph concerning Indian Schools.  There is also some wonderful information concerning Sitting Bull and the Dawes Commission

  Chief Joseph

Here is a link that provides some positive influences of the Indian Schools, though I still find it less than positive that children were forcibly removed from their parents custody.

Carlisle School

This essay brings to light not only despair but also hope.  It is my fervent hope that the Christian right is not allowed to fulfill its call of Manifest Destiny or Dominion of the Earth dogma.  For if they are able to capture the United States of America again, it will not only be the Native Peoples who are told they are going to be Assimilated, it will be all who do not hold dear to the Extreme rights Christian philosophy.  I hope and pray that those who hold that the Constitution is a living breathing document, that its truths, that all men are created equal will continue to be upheld.  I have read some truly interesting diaries over the last weeks and I for one have great fear for my country and many of the peoples who live in my country.  The writing I have given you today, I hope gives you an idea of what can happen to human beings, when others believe their virtues are greater and have more significance than your own.  That they can and will strip you of your own culture, your religion or non religion, your principles and values, to further their own cause in the name of their God is transparently available, when you see what happened to the Native Peoples of the America’s.

0 0 votes
Article Rating