I chose this topic mainly due to my passion for the history of the Native Indian culture. Along with my Bachelors in English with writing option, I am pursuing a Minor in NAS. I have read a lot of textbooks and have had numerous hours learning about Indian laws, philosophy, religious beliefs, and of course the genocide that has been inflicted upon them. Before this class, I had never really looked at the rhetoric that was actually used to persuade people that the boarding schools were a terrific idea.
Even though the pencil is just a bland tool to us, for the government, it was the best weapon against the tribes in treaty writing and for writing speeches for Pratt and other officials to talk up the civilization process of the schools. I also see that according to Thompson’s article “See Through,” regardless of power standing, the government’s actions will always end up coming to light.
The main connection that truly stands out to me is McCloud’s article on “Iconicity.” I never really made the connection until now, that even though these are simple pictures of the past; they are true icons that represent what horrible things took place. These pictures were used as propaganda to make people see that the Indian was dead, and all that was left, was a peaceful Christian. I hope this project will give a glimpse into what tactics were used for effective rhetoric at the time. Even though it was devastating to innocent children, maybe we can learn something from it and help heal the wounds that some people still have.
At the end of the 1800’s, the U.S.-Indian wars seemed to show that the Indian tribes where surely losing the battle. In the 1860’s reform groups were being established to help transform these ‘savages’ into a more ‘civilized’ group of people with the use of assimilation through education. The government set up day schools that were very close to the reservations. This was done so students could leave the reservation, attend school during the day, and then just go home. The teachers soon discovered what they were teaching during the day, was ‘untaught’ by the parents every night. Government officials decided that this method wasn’t working, so the schools were moved farther away from the reservation. The parents still wanted to be close to their children; due to lack of trust and to make sure their children were safe, so they just moved their homes next to the schools.
U.S. School for Indians at Pine Ridge, S.D. Small Oglala tipi camp in front of large government school buildings in open field
Boarding Schools (US)
Residential Schools (Canada)
Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, 1879
Under the command of Major Richard Henry Pratt, a new experiment was put into place. Pratt signed on as an Army Cavalry volunteer during the Civil War, and then spent eight years on the western Great Plains participating in conflicts with Native Americans. During his time fighting on the plains, he developed a well known hatred towards the tribal people. This experiment is what became known historically as the Indian Boarding Schools. With the permission of the Secretary of the Interior, and Secretary of the War Department, Pratt was granted permission to use the deserted Carlisle Barracks as his school. Once the building was secured, he soon visited reservations on the Dakota Territory.
At each reservation he ‘recruited’ children, so they could be the first students at the newly established Carlisle Industrial School. Carlisle was run with a military feel, the children woke up to the sound of bugles and were forced to stand at attention and keep totally silent. Military training was done so that the individual spirit of the students was broken down, and they were to think and act the same, almost as if one large organism. Along with the military regiment style life, the male students were taught a trade, usually saddle/leather work, bakery, farming, or some other skill that was deemed beneficial to the students when they graduated and the females were taught housekeeping skills. Along with those subjects, art, music education and sports were also taught.
The government used written language and technology (at the time) much like it was introduced in Denis Baron’s, “Pencils to Pixels.” Agents used the fact that tribal groups couldn’t understand the technology, even though it was just simple written words. “The pencil may seem a simple device in contrast to the computer, but although it has fewer parts, it too is an advanced technology.” In order to keep getting support for the school, Pratt created a deceitful way to show that his techniques were working.
“If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man, he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans; in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in the sight of the Great Spirit. It is not necessary, that eagles should be crows.”
The schools were being sold off as academic facilities, but in truth, they were a death sentence to tribal culture, and also to many children who were not strong enough to survive.
The number of students that had been rolled through this program is just staggering. Carlisle school kept detail records of the number of children from each tribe that attended the school. These records can be looked at as proof of how proud Pratt and other agents were of the work being done at Carlisle.
Tribal enrollment tally http://home.epix.net/~landis/tally.html
(Link to Carlisle enrollment from 1879-1918)
Pratt soon developed his own form of propaganda in order to ‘sell’ people on the idea of his new school. His plan was to use photographs to get support for Carlisle and other Indian schools. These pictures were designed to be a documentation of progress for the students. Students would be shown coming in as wild savages, and after time, be transformed into a highly civilized being, that was no longer a threat. The photos were taken by highly skilled photographers to show how much ‘education’ had changed the students. In reality, the photos represented schooling, not education. The schooling tactics included vocational trades, and manufacturing, and lacked any academic educational value (reading, writing, etc.).
Pratt knew that when people would look at the pictures, there was no true way to know if education was actually taking place. The photographers understood that successful pictures do not represent any mental transformations, but they can be constructed to show progressive ‘education.’ The students were always photographed wearing only their civilized clothes that were neatly tucked in and freshly pressed.
Academic Building at Carlisle Indian School
“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 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.”
Navajo student Tom Torlino before attending Carlisle and three years after
Carlisle School students
The sole basis of the boarding schools was to teach the children what it meant to be civilized, thus losing their cultural heritage (cultural re-education). Children were not allowed to talk in their native tongue, or allowed to wear any traditional clothing. If they slipped and did talk in their native tongue, they were punished.
“Long hair was the pride of all Indians. The boys, 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 we had to put on the clothes of the White Man. If we thought the days were bad, the nights were much worse. This is when the loneliness set in, for it was when we knew that we were all alone. Many boys ran away from the school because the treatment was so bad, but most of them were caught and brought back by the police.”Pratt firmly believed that in order for the students to be completely civilized, they had to renounce their tribal way of life, and convert to Christianity.
Graduating class of 1894, Carlisle School
Eventually the government realized the Carlisle method was a cheaper alternative to military campaigns against the tribes. Instead of paying more money to continue the tribal genocide, the schools would be used to eliminate the remaining native populations. Within 30 years of the opening of Carlisle, nearly 500 schools were spread out across the US. Only 25 off-reservation schools were controlled by the government, while the rest were church run on reservations but funded with government money. So the schools were soon being used to strip the children of native heritage (often times with severe beatings), and instill in them the value of intense labor, and also the acceptance of God.
Shoshone Episcopal Mission Boarding School, Wind River Indian Reservation, WY
The students had it, often time beaten into them, that the only way they would leave the schools
was by accepting the white Christian ways. When they were not ‘learning’ they were expected to
work in shops or for neighboring farms, as free labor.
School or Labor Camp?
Carlisle Propaganda Photo, notice the “Labor Conquers all Things” motto
Since the schools were run on a very tight budget, a large number of students died from starvation and disease because the schools lacked adequate food and medical care. Many schools would lease out the students to local farms to work during the day, and then go back to the school at night. It was common for students to perform most of the work at school: cooking, cleaning, making and washing clothes, and also farming. This practical curriculum was supposed to instill the values of hard work in the students. The boys were broken in different groups depending on the work load, and time of year. Some were shipped off to work the local farmland, others were sent out to cut wood to use for the winter heat, while the rest stayed at the school and worked in the shops. The work was hard and tedious, and the students did it for free, and in the name of God. The schools quickly became labor camps for children. For the lucky ones who actually left the schools, they just grew up to hate manual labor.
Saddle shop at the Carson School
Wood chopping crew at Tulalip Indian School, ca. 1912
Since Carlisle School was an old military post, children that were deemed as troublesome, were thrown in the prison cells. They were kept in the cells for as short as a few minutes, and as long as a few days. Even though other schools were run by priests and nuns, the physical and mental abuse was still running strong. Children were often times beaten for not listening or for not truly accepting Christianity. One of the main criteria needed in order for the children to be civilized was to acknowledge God and that being a true Christian was the only way for students to have their soul be saved. Nuns and priests often times used these beatings to remind the children that God and pain were the only true way to salvation. Reports have shown that many children were killed by beatings, poisoning, electric shock, and starvation, prolonged exposure to extreme cold temperatures while being naked and medical experimentation (organ removal and radiation exposure).
These acts were taking place in many schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. Reports produced by the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities shows the involvement of churches and government agencies in the murder of over 50,000 Native children; those are just from the Canadian residential school system. The churches here in the U.S. are not as willing to cooperate in the reporting of child deaths. Part of this is likely due to early records not being kept; the other part is, by keeping records, they would be acknowledging the abuse took place. The grounds of several schools have unmarked graves of school children, and babies born to girls that were raped by priests and other church officials working in the schools. Some workers of the schools took the saying, “Save the man, kill the Indian,” way to literally.
Carlisle Indian Industrial School Cemetery
In the 1960’s, congressional reports found that in the existing boarding schools, teachers still felt that their role at school was to civilize the American Indian, not educate them. Discipline and punishment were of higher importance than any kind of academics. Some schools would have the children watch movies. These movies were the typical Hollywood ‘cowboy and Indian’ style movies, with the Indians being killed. The motive behind the movies was to remind the children that ‘their’ people were dying because they (the students) were not civilized or misbehaving.
“Busted his head open and blood got all over”, Wright recalls. “I had to take him to the hospital, and they told me to tell them he ran into the wall and I better not tell them what really happened. Wright says he still has nightmares from the severe discipline. He worries that he and other former students have inadvertently re-created that harsh environment within their own families.”
The physical and mental abuse that took place in the schools still can be seen in people that survived. Since all they knew growing up in school, was the abuse, they unwillingly end up abusing their own family members as a result. Over the years, this has become a major problem with many families. Support groups have been established to help those in need.
Cartoon depicting pedophile tendencies of priests
“As a result of boarding school policies, there is now an epidemic of child sexual abuse in Native communities. However, because of the shame attached to abuse, there has been no space to address this problem. Consequently, child abuse passes from one generation to the next. This project (Boarding School Healing Project) becomes the entry way to address child sexual abuse. By framing abuse, not primarily as an example of individual and community dysfunctionality, but as the continuing effect of human rights abuses perpetrated by state policy, we may take the shame away from talking about abuse and provide the space for communities to address the problem to heal”
The boarding schools where horrible places for many children and for years the agencies involved did a damn good job of hiding the truth. With the power of the internet and just the strong will people have to get the truth out, the general population is more aware of what truly happened behind closed doors. The power is now shifting to the people and through letters, videos, and songs, their personal survival stories are out for the world to see. Even though the U.S. churches still do not want to acknowledge much wrong-doing, the general public (from all ethnic groups) have much more access to the truth. With the history being more open, the tribal groups are seeing much more help when dealing with domestic abuse, and depression. It will not be an overnight fix, but it’s a start in the right direction.
Baron, Denis. Pencils to Pixels. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnx3cml0Mzcxc3Vt bWVyMjAxMnxneDo3NjhlMDk5OWFmYWRiMWJi Accessed 19 June 2012
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Library of Congress (LOC PIX). Available from http://locpixapp.com/p/99613795 Accessed 10 June 2012
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Smith, Andrea. “Soul Wound: The Legacy of Native American Schools.” Manataka American Indian Council. Available from http://www.manataka.org/page2290.html Accessed 15 June 2012
Yu, Jane. “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Spring 2009. Database online. Available from The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, http://www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/CarlisleIndianSchool.html Accessed 13 June 2012
 http://www.shmoop.com/native-american-history/photo-pratt.html Accessed 11 June 2012
 Baron, Denis. Pencils to Pixels. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnx3cml0Mzcxc3VtbWVyMjA xMnxneDo3NjhlMDk5OWFmYWRiMWJi Accessed 19 June 2012
 Bear, Charla. “American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many.” Available from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16516865. Accessed 12 June 2012.
 Yu, Jane. “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Spring 2009. Database online. Available from The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, http://www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/CarlisleIndianSchool.html Accessed 13 June 2012
http://www.pbs.org/indiancountry/history/boarding2.html. Accessed 12 June 2012
 http://www.pbs.org/indiancountry/images/content/carlisle_indian_school.jpg Accessed 15 June 2012
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 http://media-1.web.britannica.com/eb-media/59/135059-004-C0E39727.jpg Accessed 15 June 2012
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 http://www.aclu.org/hrc/NativeRights_AndreaSmith.pdf Accessed 15 June 2012