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Indian Boarding Schools

Paul Jarrett

History 356 Final Project
by: Paul Jarrett


The Indian Boarding School was one of the last battles in the "Wild West." It was a battle between the "savage" and the "white man." The motives of the "white man" was to eliminate the enemy, as is in any battle. The "white man" cloaked this battle with the idea and rationalization of Manifest Destiny. The belief of Manifest Destiny led the "white man" to will the right to take possession of all land in what would eventually be known as the United States of America.

The Boarding School movement was created by the people who believed in Manifest Destiny. The "white man's" effort to restrict Indians to a "European lifestyle" meant more land for whites. The assimilation of the late 1800's was just a ridiculous idea of the "white man" supported by the belief of Manifest Destiny. This process of assimilating Indians through boarding schools was one part of an ongoing process by whites to create a cultural genocide of the Native American.


With the use of land by the "white man" increasing and as they moved to the west, they believed Indians were a problem. White society felt that these people with such a primitive way of life had to become civilized in order to survive in a "white world." Another driving force behind assimilation was in order for white society to expand, Indians had to be moved for use of land.

Being that most settlers were Christian, they were convinced that this land was meant for a Christian civilization The Christian belief was to keep with ideal of Manifest Destiny and divine intent. To have their society move closer to a higher stage of cultural development.

Contrary to the white Christian way, Indians were thought to live a savage, unacceptable way of life. Many whites believed that Indians may be mentally capable to live the "white way" but lived in an inferior manner. Due to this way of thinking, it was deemed that indeed Indians were worth "saving."

Contact between between Indians and the "white man" became common as time moved on. Whites realized that something would have to be done so that Indians would become new members of this society.

Whites saw the Indian as a project that would benefit from education. Education was one way to the government would lower the cost of feeding Indians. Attacking the Indians while protecting frontier communities was costly too. It was thought that in this area also, education could save money.

School Failure

With the financial backing and support for Indian Boarding Schools began to deteriorate, people opposed to the idea began to rally. The Boarding Schools were being labeled as making dependent Indians rather than independent. Indian Boarding Schools were also disliked for separating young children from their families. Writings of Indians and others became encouraging and created new ideas for education. One of the voices was, G. Stanley Hall. He was quoted in saying, "urged teachers to build on an Indian child's natural capacities and background rather than obliterate them. Hall asked, " Why not make him a good Indian rather than a cheap imitation of the white man?" This idea was in a sense already used in the idea of "kill the Indian not the man."

With the assimilations failing, Indian culture somewhat survived. The efforts of the "white man" had horrible effects on the Indian children. For the Indians who endured four hundred years of oppression the Boarding School system was just another of the unforgivable action of white America and its government.

Relevant Links

Indian Country Today

Minnesota Historical Society

American Indian Stereotypes: 500 Years of Hate Crimes

Cornell University: Making of America

The Sherman Names Project Student Archives:

Chemawa Indian Boarding School
Salem, Oregond 1901

Tulalip Indian School
Seattle, Washington 1912

Girls learning skills in a boarding school

Boys learning skills in boarding school

Carlisle Indian School
Pennsylvania, 1882

Before & After school

St. Mary's Mission School
Omak, Washington 1882




Francis La Flesche, The Middle Five - Indian Schoolboys of the Omaha Tribe, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1932

K. Tsianina Lomawaima, They Called it Prairie Light - The Story of Chilocco Indian School, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1993

Margaret Crary, Susette La Flesche: Voice of the Omaha Indians, Hawthorn Books, New York, New York, 1973

David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction - American Indians and the Boarding School Experience 1875-1928, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1995.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Tribal Colleges: Shaping the Future of Native America, Special Report, Princeton University Press, Lawrenceville, New Jersey, 1989

Ward Churchill, Since Predator Came - Notes from the Struggle for American Indian Liberation, Aigis Publications, Littleton, Colorado,1995.

Michael Coleman, American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi,1993.

M. Annette Jaimes, The State of Native America - Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance, South End Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 1992

Nancy Oestreich Lurie, Mountain Wolf Woman: Sister of Crashing Thunder, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1966

Sherman Alexie, The Toughest Indian in the World, Grove Press, New York, New York, 1966