Effects of Indian Boarding Schools
By: Chloe Rickman and Hailey Hollinshead
What Caused the Boarding Schools?
The years following the Homestead Act, conflicts arose between settlers and Indians. After many of the settlers moved west, battles between the Indians and settlers became a regular occurrence. The Dawes Act of 1887 forced Indian Boarding schools to be built. The deculturalization of Native Americans began with the construction of the first Indian Boarding school on the Yakima Indian Reservation in the state of Washington. By the 1880s there were 60 schools built with 6,200 Indian students in attendance. The majority of the boarding schools were built by Christian missionaries and the federal government(1) . In the late nineteenth century, Indian boarding schools stripped Native Americans of their culture, therefore, having negative psychological and cultural consequences. The conditions the Boarding Schools enforced caused these negative effects.
The picture to the left shows many students outside of one of the first Indian boarding schools. C.R.
"I'll never forget. All the mothers were crying" -David Westerman
"Kill the Indian, Save the Man" -Richard Pratt
An Army officer, Richard Pratt, founded the first of these schools. He based it on an education program he had developed in an Indian prison. He described his philosophy in a speech he gave in 1892. "A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one," Pratt said. "In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man." Basically he was promoting taking away the Native heritage and replacing it with mainstream American culture. The first step at many schools was changing the names of the Indian children. Almost immediately upon the children's arrival at the schools, they were given American names and had their meaningful Native names taken away during the long time away from home. In 1945, Bill Wright, a Pattwin Indian, was sent to the Stewart Indian School in Nevada. “I remember coming home and and my grandma asked me to talk Indian to her. I said “Grandma I don't understand you,’ ” Wright said. “She said, “Then who are you?” Wright said he told her his name was Billy. " 'Your name's not Billy. Your name's 'TAH-rruhm,' " she told him. "And I went, 'That's not what they told me.' "(4) H.H.
Taking Away Names and Hair
Their names were crucial to their identity but long hair was the pride of all Indians. Cutting one’s hair short is a violation of most traditional Native American beliefs. The kids, one by one, would break down and cry when they saw their braids thrown on the floor. All of the buckskin clothes had to go and they had to put on the clothes of the “White Man”. The days were bad, but the nights were much worse. This was when the loneliness set in, for it was when they knew that they were all alone. Many boys ran away from the schools because the treatment was so bad, but most of them were caught and brought back by the police(5). At the age of five, Walter Littlemoon was removed from his family to attend a federal government boarding school. Littlemoon says they were also forbidden to speak their language. “The word ‘education’ there is something that my mother had agreed to,” Littlemoon recalls. “But that isn’t what we got. It was almost like a re-education camp where we were supposed to be turned into something else that we weren’t. So, we were always called being uncivilized…or we were uncivilized. We were savages. We couldn’t learn…and so they had to do these things this way in order for us to learn."(6) H.H.
Speak in English or Don't Speak At All
Military Lifestyle and Inhumane Punishments
Battling the Trauma To This Day
What was the main priority shared by these schools? To assimilate the Native American traditional culture, values and beliefs through the educational system. During the process of stripping away the Indians heritage it caused many negative physiological effects. The damage from the early abuse in many Native American lives has noted as an increasing factor in illnesses that plague the tribes today. Passed from generation to generation, high rates of poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression and suicide have been noted by researchers(12). The legacy left behind from these schools is a tragic one with traumatic effects that are still being battled with to this day. H.H.