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The Carlisle Indian School

Page history last edited by Cassie Blazejeski 11 years, 3 months ago


After the Civil War, the U.S. had its heart set on western settlement and the Indians seemed to be the one thing standing in their way. The Native populations were already withering with the introduction of white settlers diseases and increased competition for the decreasing population of plain bison. The Federal government tried negotiating with the Indians through treaties and negotiations, but the Indians ignored them because of their differing morals and beliefs. Tensions worsened as the government forced it way onto Indian land, pushing the natives onto small reservations. The 1887 Dawes Act dissolved tribes as legal entities and ended tribal ownership of land. The federal government furthermore intervened by attempting to educate and "civilize" the natives. 1887 the Carlisle Indian School was created to teach Indian children the ways of white society. The images above show the types of transformations these children went through while at the school. They were forced to cut their hair, wear new clothes, and chose new "white" names. They were taught etiquette and the ways of white gentleman. Indian culture and ethics were completely ignored throughout the whole process. (Sarah B.)


With promises of land, gold, and unimaginable wealth, the pull for Americans to travel out West was large, the only problem was Indians which they had pushed out there decades earlier "permanently". With foreign traditions like "sun dances" and communal ownership of land, the only option for Americans, recently introduced to Darwinism, was to "Kill the indian and save the man." The Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania was designed to make Indian children more "white". By teaching them English and giving them new names they tried to assimilate them into American society. The only issue was by pushing them onto Reservations with the Dawes Act of 1887, taking away their status as a legal entity and taking away their traditions like communal ownership of land, they secluded Native Americans and made them bitter towards Americans. The children in the left image above certainly look more American, but also extremely unhappy. (Jenna L.)


This is forced American naturalization at it's finest. The Carlisle School was designed for Indian children to change into well behaved American children. The first photograph, although thoroughly displeased to be there at the school, the children are in the comfort of their own culture. Long hair represented strength and Native American men only cut them in times of morning. Americanization took no account of the centuries old traditions and chopped off all their hair and stuffed them into suits. The Dawes Act comes hand in hand with this institution because just like how the school stripped the children of their culture, the Dawes Act stripped every one else of it. Previously Indians were pushed on to reservations but with the Act the land was divided up into 160 acre plots that each family would be given. Indians were never accustomed to anything but complete sharing of the land since owning land was an unheard of concept. Even though the process was difficult many reservations have been able to retain some of their traditions (just not the ghost dance since that was outlawed with the Dawes Act as well) and some Americanized Indians actually went on to be successful politicians. The success stories are as far and in between as those of people reaching the American dream since many still live in poverty, recovering from the cruelties inflicted on them. (Cassie B.)



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