Native American Boarding Schools

Native American boarding schools were set up in the late 1800’s as a means for the white man to teach Native Americans, who they believed to be savages, how to be civilized. It was a disgraceful attempt to impose the white culture onto native Americans, and has played a big role in the way Native Americans see the public school system in America today.

The first Native American boarding school was created in 1878 in Pennsylvania. Captain Richard Pratt turned an abandoned military post into a prison school for Indians that were accused of slaughtering white settlers. Later Pratt opened a similar school in Florida. This school forced 72 Apache Indians to remain there for almost a full year. When the year was up Pratt had convinced 22 of them to remain in school.

Pratt was quoted as saying “he wanted to kill the Indian, not the man.”, indicating that his educational intentions involved assimilating Native Americans to a more European culture. Most Native American boarding schools used brainwashing techniques to accomplish their goals.

The Native American boarding schools were opened far away from Indian reservations, to insure that children had little or no contact with their family and friends, essentially depriving them of their native culture.  They were forced to memorize the Bible and were forbidden from practicing their faith. They were also not allowed to speak their native language, and were taught that their former way of life was savage. In addition, the Native American boarding schools punished the children harshly for any deviations from the school’s regulations.

By the 1930’s most off reservation Native American boarding schools had been closed, and their practices deemed inhumane. However, while they were open more than 100,000 Native Americans attended 500 different boarding schools. The negative impact of these schools can still be seen today.

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