Friends of the Indian
Let us forget once and forever the word "Indian"and all that it has signified in the past, and remember only that we are dealing with so many children of a common Father.
Containment had been the goal of federal Indian policy throughout much of the nineteenth century, but in 1883 a group of white church leaders, social reformers and government officials met at Mohonk Lake, New York, to chart a new, more humane course of action. Calling themselves “Friends of the Indian,” they proposed to remold Native Americans into mainstream citizens and to begin this process by re-educating the youngest generation at special Indian schools.
were trying to make white people out of 'em. When they took the children
away from the mothers, they just knew they'd never see their children
no more.... they didn't think about school. They were thinkin', they didn't
know whether or not they really went to school, or were going to be killed.
The United States Indian Training and Industrial School at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was the model for this re-education movement, a military-style institution which housed students as young as five years old brought from half a continent away. Many Indians -- including even Sitting Bull -- sent their children to such schools willingly, believing they would help prepare the next generation to live successfully in the white man's world. Unfortunately, this was rarely the case.
Still, by century's end, there would be 24 off-reservation boarding schools like Carlisle, plus 81 boarding schools and 147 day schools on the reservations themselves, all striving to eradicate their students' tribal identities and educate them "not as Indians, but as Americans."
When I went to Concho... we all spoke our dialect and we were told not to talk it, speak English.... our Matron [was] a big, husky white lady, her name was Garrett, and [one day] somebody said, Mother Garrett's coming! Well, we all tried to keep quiet, but she heard me. Mother Garrett jerked me by the collar of my dress and dragged me into the bathroom.
That lye soap was about that big and about that high. She broke off a piece and she washed my mouth with lye soap. She said, Don't you ever speak Indian again or I'm going to wash your mouth again. And my tongue got blistered from that lye.
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