Do you consider yourself civilized? What does it mean to be civilized? America was struggling with these questions as it tried to solve the "Indian problem." At the end of the nineteenth and early in the twentieth century, the American government supported American Indian boarding schools. Native American children were often removed from their families, placed in government-run boarding schools and trained in "white man's ways." One of the first to try this experiment was Captain R.H. Pratt. He founded the first off-reservation Indian boarding school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1879.
The challenge is to imagine what life was like for people who lived during this period of time. Learn more about the teachers, school administrators, the children who attended the schools, and Native American leaders as you study photographs and life stories.
In this exercise you will examine and compare photographs from one of the three categories below. In each gallery compare "Native Ways," a sample of photographs of life before boarding school, and "Boarding School Ways," photos of life at school.
Click on the gallery of your choice below and follow the directions.
Create a gallery of 3-5 pictures that best illustrate how Indians' lives were expected to change after attending a boarding school.
- Search the galleries of pictures, Appearances, Dwellings, and Daily Life and Customs, in this lesson or do your own search using the American Memory collections to create your own gallery of pictures.
- Present these pictures in a physical or digital gallery.
- Respond to the following questions:
- What is the main idea being illustrated in your gallery?
- What could not be explained about boarding schools in your collection?
- What would be a good title for your collection?
Use the Journal Resources. Research individuals or groups of individuals who were associated with the schools. Select one person or group of people for closer examination. Record the language, opinions, and beliefs of that person.
Exchange Journals Page
Using the pictures you have observed and the information you have collected on the Journal Resources, select one person whose identify you would like to assume. Learn as much as you can about this person and the type of life he or she lived at this time. Use the American Memory collections to research a variety of search words and phrases to help you discover more about your person or people in the same position. Use your observations and your interpretations. Try to think and act as your assumed identity would have during this time period. Determine the following about your chosen person.
- What did your person think about American Indian boarding schools?
- What job or relationship did your person have with American Indian boarding schools? For example, Was he or she a student, parent of a student, a teacher, a Superintendent or an Administrator of a school, or a government official?
- What word would your person have used in describing American Indian boarding schools? Remember to use words that would have been used in the 1800s and early 1900s.
- What experiences did your person have with American Indian boarding schools? Imagine what their life would have been like as they went about their daily routines. Did their lives change because of the schools? What were they trying to accomplish?
- What did your person like about the American Indian boarding schools?
- What did your person dislike about the American Indian boarding schools?
After you have learned more about your person by answering the questions, you will assume the role of this person and write as he or she would have written in a journal. Entries in your journal will begin with a response to a daily question and then you may continue with your own entries. Your journal will be given to another who has assumed the role of a different person. This student will respond to your journal entry as his or her character would have responded. We will have several exchanges. Be careful to stay in character when you write.
Your teacher may assign one of the following prompts to help you begin to write in your journal. Try to stay in character and answer the question, but ask questions or explain your point of view to your journal partner.
- Why is there a need for American Indian boarding schools?
- Have you ever been to an American Indian boarding school? Describe your experience.
- Respond to the statement, "Indian children should attend Indian boarding schools so that they may be 'civilized'."
- Respond to the statement, "The education Indian children receive will enable them to lead a useful, productive life."
- Respond to the statement, "English is the only language to be spoken at the boarding school."
- Describe the changes in the American Indian children after they attended boarding schools for a time.
- Recommend at least one change in the American Indian boarding school system that would improve the schools.
- Predict how the life of the American Indian would be different without the boarding schools.
- Describe the funniest experience you had with an American Indian boarding school.
- Describe your saddest experience with an American Indian boarding school.