Indian Boarding Schools

Kristeen Irigoyen-Hernandez aka Lady2Soothe


This is a manual cover page from the Government and Church in 1916 on how to kidnap Indigenous children from their parents by removing their culture, language, and identity and assimilating them into the dominant culture. “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.” 1887 – John A McDonald. Architect of the Indian Act

The US government wanted to destroy the identity of Indians by ripping over 100,000 children from their homes and families and put in boarding schools to be “civilized” by beating the native out of them with leather belts, whips and sticks.

460 boarding and day schools had been built near reservations, most run by religious organizations with government funds. All told, more than 100,000 Native Americans were forced by the U.S. government to attend Christian schools where tribal languages and cultures were replaced by English and Christianity. Students were prohibited from speaking their native languages. Instead, they were supposed to converse and even think in English. If they were caught “speaking Indian” they were severely beaten with a leather belt.

Virtually imprisoned in the schools, children experienced a devastating litany of abuses, from forced assimilation and grueling labor to widespread sexual and physical abuse “where recent generations learned the fine art of standing in line single-file for hours without moving a hair, as a lesson in discipline; where our best and brightest earned graduation certificates for homemaking and masonry; where the sharp rules of immaculate living were instilled through blistered hands and knees on the floor with scouring toothbrushes; where mouths were scrubbed with lye and chlorine solutions for uttering Native words.”

The boarding schools ran on bare-bones budgets, and large numbers of students died from starvation and disease because of inadequate food and medical care. School officials routinely forced children to do arduous work to raise money for staff salaries and “leased out” students during the summers to farm or work as domestics for white families.

Physical hardship, however, was merely the backdrop to a systematic assault on Native culture. School staff sheared children’s hair, banned traditional clothing and customs, and forced children to worship as Christians. Eliminating Native languages — considered an obstacle to the “acculturation” process — was a top priority, and teachers devised an extensive repertoire of punishments for uncooperative children. “I was forced to eat an entire bar of soap for speaking my language,” says AIUSA activist Byron Wesley (Navajo).

After the United States declared independence, American politicians quickly identified dissolution of Native American cultures as a necessary step in undermining tribal saliency and in ensuring the political dominion of state and federal governments. By the 19th century, policymakers were convinced that encouraging Indians to put aside their “savage ways” would help tribal populations achieve cultural and spiritual salvation through Christianity. In 1869, President Grant initiated a “Peace Policy” granting Christian missions contracts and federal funding to civilize and Christianize the Native American peoples of assigned reservations. The federal government established boarding schools for the children of tribal communities to teach English, Christianity, and occupational skills in order to “Kill the Indian in him and Save the Man.”

Not until in 1969, and after years of unequal schooling, the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) was formed to fight for equal education for 1st Nation Indigenous Native Americans.

~ Aho

press

Kristeen Irigoyen-Hernandez
Human Rights Advocate, Researcher/Chronological Archivist and member in good standing with the Constitution First Amendment Press Association (CFAPA.org)

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