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Boarding School Blues

Revisiting American Indian Educational Experiences

Clifford E. Trafzer

Publication Year: 2006

Like the figures in the ancient oral literature of Native Americans, children who lived through the American Indian boarding school experience became heroes, bravely facing a monster not of their own making. Sometimes the monster swallowed them up. More often, though, the children fought the monster and grew stronger. This volume draws on the full breadth of this experience in showing how American Indian boarding schools provided both positive and negative influences for Native American children. The boarding schools became an integral part of American history, a shared history that resulted in Indians “turning the power” by using their school experiences to grow in wisdom and benefit their people.

The first volume of essays ever to focus on the American Indian boarding school experience, and written by some of the foremost experts and most promising young scholars of the subject, Boarding School Blues ranges widely in scope, addressing issues such as sports, runaways, punishment, physical plants, and Christianity. With comparative studies of the various schools, regions, tribes, and aboriginal peoples of the Americas and Australia, the book reveals both the light and the dark aspects of the boarding school experience and illuminates the vast gray area in between.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Indigenous Education

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. viii-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

The American Indian boarding school experience left an indelible mark on the history of the United States and Canada, and only recently have we tried to understand the significance of the schools in the lives of students, teachers, administrators, and Indian communities. Perhaps we have waited so long for this ...

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Introduction: Origin and Development of the American Indian Boarding School System

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pp. 1-34

Among North American Indians, the boarding school system was a successful failure. The practice of removing Native American children from their homes, families, and communities and forcing them into an educational system designed to assimilate them into American and Canadian societies both succeeded and failed. ...

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1. Beyond Bleakness: The Brighter Side of Indian Boarding Schools, 1870-1940

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pp. 35-64

The picture that historians have painted of Indian boarding schools has generally been a bleak one. The scenario goes something like this. Late-nineteenth-century policy makers, convinced that the alternatives facing Indians were racial extinction or forced assimilation, were determined to effect the latter. ...

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2. “We Had a Lot of Fun, but of Course, That Wasn’t the School Part”: Life at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1893-1920

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pp. 65-98

On a clear, windy afternoon in August 1990, ninety-two-year-old Parker McKenzie, a Kiowa from Mountain View, Oklahoma, pointed to the ramshackle remains of the Rainy Mountain Boarding School and told me, “That was where I got my start in life.” The ruins to which he pointed lay in the center of what had ...

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3. The Man on the Bandstand at Carlisle Indian Industrial School: What He Reveals about the Children’s Experiences

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pp. 99-122

The first generation of Native American children channeled through the government Indian school system left behind almost no record of their experiences. Today, the violent nature of this aggressive educational campaign and its long-term consequences for families and communities are beginning to be understood, ...

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4. Putting Lucy Pretty Eagle to Rest

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pp. 123-130

In August 2003 a group of descendants of Carlisle Indian Industrial School students gathered just outside the wrought-iron fence bordering the Indian cemetery to dedicate a historic marker. Passersby watched as people in the group took turns talking. Amid the uniform military markers that identified the remains ...

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5. Loosening the Bonds: The Rapid City Indian School in the 1920s

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pp. 131-154

If a student from the Rapid City Indian School were to see today’s Sherman Indian High School, he or she probably would not recognize Sherman as an Indian boarding school: the students are Indian, but they do not march to their classes, wear uniforms, or spend half of each day working in the kitchen, laundry, or dairy. ...

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6. Hail Mary: The Catholic Experience at St. Boniface Indian School

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pp. 155-173

“A student was selected to give the commands,” explained a former student of St. Boniface Indian School, who had attending during the 1940s. The nuns pointed students toward “a cross mounted in an archway, between the classrooms.” Then, “after a short prayer to the cross, the command was given to face the American flag.” ...

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7. Learning Gender: Female Students at the Sherman Institute, 1907-1925

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pp. 174-186

Female students at Sherman Institute faced an educational system that included, among other goals, gender assimilation. Two influential organizations that many female students encountered at Sherman Institute were the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the outing system. Both of these were essential ...

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8. Through a Wide-Angle Lens: Acquiring and Maintaining Power, Position, and Knowledge through Boarding Schools

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pp. 187-201

Boarding schools go against the grain of the human experience. By substituting an institutional setting for the traditional family, they intervene in the educational nurturing historically provided by home, kin group, and community. Yet their apparent drawbacks have not prevented some cultures from embracing ...

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9. Indian Boarding Schools in Comparative Perspective: The Removal of Indigenous Children in the United States and Australia, 1880-1940

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pp. 202-231

When she was growing up, Rose recalls, “the agents were sending out police on horseback to locate children to enroll [in school]. The stories we heard frightened us; I guess some children were snatched up and hauled over there because the policemen came across them while they were out herding, hauling water, ...

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10. The Place of American Indian Boarding Schools in Contemporary Society

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pp. 232-242

The American Indian boarding schools that emerged in the United States in 1869 developed out of the mission schools established by religious orders during the colonial era. Mission schools and off-reservation government boarding schools for Indian students significantly changed Native American cultures, ...

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About the Editors

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pp. 243-244

Clifford E. Trafzer is Professor of History, Director of Graduate Studies, and Director of Public History at the University of California, Riverside. He has published Death Stalks the Yakama: Epidemiological Transitions and Mortality on the Yakama Indian Reservation, The People of San Manuel, ...


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pp. 245-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780803257214
E-ISBN-10: 080325721X

Page Count: 274
Illustrations: Illus.
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Indigenous Education