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American Indian Boarding Schools

Categories: Free Essays

The establishment of the schools for Native Americans is not a new phenomenon as efforts were made at in the 19th century with emphasis being placed on the development of educational facilities where American Indian’s children could get educated through boarding schools. The aim was to bring them into the mainstream American society and to teach them the values of the new American culture. First such experiment was made in 1879 when Capitan Richard Henry Pratt established Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania.

Aim of the Schools

However, that experiment was not successful as many believed it was marred by the gross abuse of the Indian Americans and finally school was closed. However, the efforts were continued to be made to formalize education for the Native Americans so that they can become effectively a part of the US society at much larger scale as well as contribute towards the development of the society. The aim of these schools were to replace the traditional ways of the American Indians with those sanctioned by the government so that Natives can be melt down into the mainstream American economy.

In order to achieve the aim, a federal India Policy was adopted which advocated the separation of the Indian children from their families to enroll them into government run boarding schools. The aim was to immerse young people to adapt to the new society and replace their old and traditional way of living with the new and modern way of living. This essay will attempt to understand the principle objectives of the US.

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Indian Policy during 19th and early 20th century as well as discussing the role of education in fulfilling that aim besides discussing some other issues.

Principle Objectives Over Time

Over the period of time, federal government established many schools including boarding, reservation, mission as well as day schools to bring in the native Indian American children into the new system of education. It is also important to discuss that many of the schools opened were also a part of the treaties made with the local Indian tribes by the federal government as well as some schools were established by the priests in order to combine the modern day education with the religious as well as cultural education.

These schools were funded by the federal government too. The principle objectives behind the establishment of such schools were many folds. As discussed above that the basic purpose was to bring in Native American children into the mainstream schools however, the basic principles on which such schools were built included military school regimen, strict adherence to the English language only, and further emphasis on splitting the time of children in such a way that on one hand they get their education and in their spare time, they emphasis more on vocational training.

A close observation of the above principle objectives would suggest that the education for Indian Americans were mainly developed around the military style with more emphasis on the following of rules and regulations besides teaching the children to be more disciplined and organized. (Marr, 2008) Role of education the basic purpose behind such schools were to blend the education with the vocational training therefore the emphasis was on the development of both the education as well as skill level of the students.

The role the education in such environment, therefore, would be manyfold. Education was tailored in such a way that it allowed students to learn many new and important skills. The blending of education with the practical training provided students the necessary skills to learn manual jobs. The curriculum was designed in such a way that it raised the overall consciousness levels of the Indian American students and provided them an opportunity to explore the world in much better and broader way.

Pros and Cons of School Conditions

Education further allowed the government to control potentially violent tribes as establishing of schools and teaching their children provided an opportunity to the government to control the tribes and ensure permanent peace. It is also important to note that such efforts also criticized too because it was argued that the education of such type forced the native American children to forget about their culture and focus on Anglo way of living thus a virtual death to the native culture. Conditions Conditions narrated in different accounts suggest that the students were put under strict control and in strict military sense.

They were hardly allowed to meet their parents except brief period which was also being spied on by the schools. Children have to do their own work and the work related in the school too. Girls were required to support in meal preparations, sewing, cooking and other manual jobs whereas boys were required to chop wood and perform other manual jobs to support themselves during their stay at schools. Children were often punished, sexually abused as well as put under extreme conditions such as marching in rain, cold etc. (Vanderpool, 2002)

Such conditions outline that all was not well and the perceived objectives of bringing in the children of Native Americans into the mainstream society of America was marred by some extremities which virtually failed the intentions with which such programs were initiated. Long term effects These experiments were proved a great negative influence on the Native Americans as the methods applied to teach the children were in anyway humane. Such methods may also point out to the fact that the intentions with which the programs were initiated were either not honest or there was a deliberate effort to kill the Indian and save the man concept.

The reported incidents of the violence and strict environment suggest that we have hurt Indian American rather than helping them to adapt the new society. It may be claimed that the Indian boarding schools may have been the solution for the government to the Indian problem but for the Indians it was a deliberate attempt to destroy their culture and gross abuse of their children in so called boarding schools which were established to civilize their children. (Bear, 2008)

In order to assess the long term impacts of such efforts however we need to take into account both the sides as there were some positives as well as negative aspects of such efforts. On positive side, it helped children to get themselves educated as well as become aware of different possibilities available to them however on the negative side their culture was destroyed and they were largely abused. This probably has become a soar memory of the Indian American Boarding schools efforts by the Federal Government of US. Bibliography Bear, C. (2008).


  • American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many. Retrieved September 11, 2008, from NPR: http://www. npr. org/templates/story/story. php? storyId=16516865
  • Marr, C. J. (2008). Assimilation Through Education: Indian Boarding Schools in the Pacific Northwest. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from University of Washington: http://content. lib. washington. edu/aipnw/marr. html Vanderpool, T. (2002, April 02).
  • Lesson No. 1: Shed your Indian identity. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from The Christian Science Monitor: http://www. csmonitor. com/2002/0402/p14s01-lecs. html

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American Indian Boarding Schools. (2016, Nov 28). Retrieved from

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