Thursday, December 08, 2005

Native Boarding Schools: The U.S.Tribal Nation Experience

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“Kill the Indian and Save the Man,” was the motto coined by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, who in 1879 founded the first Native American Boarding School, Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. The purpose of the Native American Boarding schools was to assimilate Native American children into the American culture by placing them in institutions where they were forced to reject their Native American culture.

The boarding school experience for most of the Tribal Nations in the U.S. was very similar to that of the residential school system in Canada. Canada based its residential school system and policies largely on the U.S. model of Native boarding schools, which began in the 1870's. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, missionaries and local authorities were responsible for barging into native homes, and taking their children in order to place them into these schools against the will of their parents: if the parents were caught hiding their children they lost food rations.

At these schools native children were forced to cut their long black hair; kept away from their families; often told that their families either were dead or no longer wanted them; abused physically, mentally and sexually; forbidden to speak their native languages or practice their culture and traditions; and were denied the right to call each other by their native names. They were often isolated from their parents for most of the year, often without visits, and from their communities and cultural identities as well.

These boarding schools began in the 1870's and the last of the off-reserve boarding schools was closed in the 1930's. The Bureau of Indian Affairs controlled 25 of these schools, and the church operated approximatly 460 of these schools, which were funded by the government. During this time frame over 100,000 native children attended these schools and many returned home, but many did not. Native children had no immunity to many of the fatal diseases which frequented such closed quarters and many of them died from those diseases. Perpetuating the deaths of many native children was also the severe physical abuse and neglect they suffered at the hands of their care givers and sometimes even home sickness.

The policy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the time was complete assimilation of all Tribal Nations into American citizens so they would relinquish control of their lands to the government.

Upon returning to the community, often leaving around 5 years of age and returning many years later, these children no longer fit into their home communites, nor into non-native society. They lacked cultural and traditional awareness, parenting skills and were often returning in a traumatized state either from personally experiencing some form of abuse or from witnessing a form of abuse against another child or sibling.

I could not find any statistics that gave me an estimate of the number of children that died while attending these boarding schools, but I am sure the number is significant and likely in the neighborhood of the Canadian residential schools, which saw from 25,000 - 50,000 children die and never return home while attending them.

I can not do this experience justice in a few short paragraphs; however, I do think its important to recognize the Tribal Nation people that attended these boarding schools througout the U.S., and also to acknowledge the children who never returned home.

"May the Creator Bless You"


Blogger Matt said...

Great Post Shelley :)

Nice blog!

8:24 PM  
Blogger Shelley Brant said...

Well thank you Matthew. Glad you enjoyed it!

8:55 PM  
Blogger Sadiq M. Alam said...

May the Creator Bless you as well Shelley !

11:48 AM  
Blogger Sadiq M. Alam said...

Oh i forgot to mention something... i love the title of your blog.



11:49 AM  
Blogger Shelley Brant said...

Thank You Sadiq, and may he bless you too.

1:15 PM  

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