Native American Boarding Schools

Native American Boarding Schools

Around 1800s, after the Civil war some American troops were sent to patrol the West and they found Indian problems. US government established the Indian reform movement with the purpose of taking the land of indigenous.

This reform undertook education policies to Native American youth in ways to dominate Western culture and they could assimilate into Western society.

For this purpose, the reformers created "reservation boarding schools". These schools were subjected to different tactics to prepare Native American natives for life outside their reservations.

Besides, these schools were located far away from reservations to break the bond between students and their tribe, but also this way, Indian families could move near at schools and leave their lands.

The first Indian boarding school was Carlisle Indian School founded in 1878. It was built in an abandoned military post in Pennsylvania. It was opened by the captain Richard H. Pratt whose idea was to "kill the Indian, not the man" by teaching the European culture to Native Americans.

Pratt visited the Pine Ridge and Sioux reservations and convinced parents and tribal elders to take 60 young boys and 24 girls to a new boarding school. Native American boarding schools had the following features:
  • These schools established a military style regimen in which students should wear military uniforms.
  • Students were prohibited to speak their languages with a strict adherence to English language.
  • Emphasis on farming, and a schedule that equally split academic and vocational training.
  • American Indians were not allowed to see their families.
According these assimilation methods, the education of Native American children were centered on the dominant society's construction of gender norms and ideals. That is why, boys and girls were separated in every activity and their interactions were strictly regulated. Besides these schools reflected the roles and duties that they were to assume once outside the reservation.

Girls learned skills such as cooking, canning, sewing, ironing, child care, and cleaning. These skills could be used in the home.

Boys learned the importance of agricultural lifestyle so they obtained skills like plowing and planting, field irrigation, the care of stock, and the maintenance of fruit orchards. However, many natives resisted and rejected the gender norms that were being imposed upon them.

Because of these doubtful methods in 1930s most Native American boarding schools were closed, but Missionaries opened new Native American Boarding Schools with different concepts, so many American Indian children who lived on reservations still attended boarding schools located there.

Currently, the national system of Indian education includes both off reservation boarding schools, reservation boarding schools and day schools, which have continued to expand. Despite everything, many Native American Boarding Schools students return to their reservations and become leaders in tribal politics and with their knowledge they help their tribes to get a tribal identity in 20th Century.