Books in the Library on American Boarding Schools

Posted 15/03/25 in NEWS

In 1879 Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, commissioned Nicholas Flood Davin to do a study of the internal workings of the Industrial Boarding schools in the United States and the Canadian West.  In 1920 attendance at residential schools became mandatory in Canada.  Richard Henry Pratt helped convince the U.S. government it was cheaper to assimilate Native Americans than to eradicate them.  Macdonald followed suit.  The library has the following books on American Indian Boarding Schools in the same section as the books on Canadian Indian Residential Schools.

Assimilation's agent: my life as a superintendent in the Indian boarding school system by Edwin L. Chalcraft (2004).  Two key pieces of American Indian policy were the off-reservation boarding schools and the General Allotment Act or Dawes Severalty Act of 1887.  Two army officers - Richard Henry Pratt and Melville C. Wilkinson convinced the government to set up two off-reservation boarding schools in 1879, the Carlisle in Pennsylvania and the Chemawa in Oregon.  Edwin Chalcraft was a superintendent of the federal Indian boarding schools during the critical period of forced assimilation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  He was hired in 1883.

The art of Americanization at the Carlisle Indian School by Hayes Peter Mauro (2011).  Creating culturally acceptable identities for immigrants, the poor, Native Americans and African Americans was part of the U.S. government’s mission.  By means of aesthetic transformation, these groups were to be converted into model “American“ citizens.  Many before and after photographs were taken of students at the Carlisle School.  As well phrenology charts indicated the facial angles of snake right through to Caucasian which is listed as the highest intelligence.

America's second tongue: American Indian education and the ownership of English, 1860-1900 by Ruth Spack ((2002).  Referring to English as the native language of Americans has the rhetorical effect of making the first inhabitants of this land invisible.  Despite the efforts of Europeans to keep Native people and their contributions invisible, Native ways of knowing have always been essential to the development of the European way of life on Native lands.  The book also tells the story of Zitkala-Sa who used her consummate translingual skills to turn the field of anthropology on its head.  Once the object of study, she gained the power to “see” and in her eyes the “civilized people” become the specimens to be studied.

Conquest: sexual violence and American Indian genocide by Andrea Smith (2005).  Smith's work focuses on issues of violence against women of color and their communities, specifically Native American women. A co-founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, the Boarding School Healing Project, and the Chicago chapter of Women of All Red Nations, Smith centers the experiences of women of color in both her activism and her scholarship.  Chapter 2 focuses on Boarding Schools and in a comparison with Canada, abuses at the Mohawk Institute in Brantford are quoted.   Smith continues to compare situations in the United States with those in Canada.

The students of Sherman Indian School: education and Native identity since 1892 by Diana Meyers Bahr (2013).  The Perris Indian School started in 1892, moved to California and became the Sherman Indian School which later became the Sherman Indian High School and is currently one of four remaining off-reservation boarding schools.  There is also a Sherman Indian Museum.  The Sherman Institute was considered one of the worst schools.  The book takes you through the changes in the school over the 107 years of its existence.  On September 8, 2000 Kevin Grover, on behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued an apology.  An additional apology was approved by President Obama, but was buried in the 2010 defence appropriations bill.

Empty beds: Indian student health at Sherman Institute, 1902-1922 by Jean A. Keller (2002).  One hundred years after the establishment of the Sherman Institute in California only a single original building remains.  It now houses the Sherman Indian Museum.  Empty Beds explores the early era of change in Indian education ideology as it pertained to student health at Sherman Institute in Southern California between 1902 and 1922.     The fact that the student population at Sherman Institute during the period between 1902 and 1922 evidenced good health is at odds with widespread perceptions that nonreservation boarding schools essentially functioned as death factories for Native American children. Empty Beds is the first comprehensive study of Indian student health at a nonreservation boarding school.

No Turning Back: A Hopi Woman’s Struggle to Live in Two Worlds by Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White) as told to Vada F. Carlson (1964).  The author having read a book that defamed the character of the Hopis as a nation, was jolted out of complacency and into full realization of her responsibility to know the truth of the Hopis.  Her grandmother used to say that either she or her children will be a bond between the white people and the Hopi people.  She says, “I am Indian enough at heart to believe that her prophecy has been fulfilled.”  Her book recounts the coming of the missionaries and the removal of children to boarding schools.

Boarding school seasons: American Indian families, 1900-1940 by Brenda J. Child (2000).  Boarding School Seasons offers a revealing look at the strong emotional history of Indian boarding school experiences in the first half of the twentieth century. At the heart of this book are the hundreds of letters written by parents, children, and school officials at Haskell Institute in Kansas and the Flandreau School in South Dakota. These revealing letters show how profoundly entire families were affected by their experiences.

White mother to a dark race: settler colonialism, maternalism, and the removal of Indigenous children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940 by Margaret D. Jacobs (2011).  White Mother to a Dark Race takes the study of Indigenous education and acculturation in new directions in its examination of the key roles white women played in these policies of Indigenous child-removal. Government officials, missionaries, and reformers justified the removal of Indigenous children in particularly gendered ways by focusing on the supposed deficiencies of Indigenous mothers, the alleged barbarity of Indigenous men, and the lack of a patriarchal nuclear family. Often they deemed white women the most appropriate agents to carry out these child-removal policies. Inspired by the maternalist movement of the era, many white women were eager to serve as surrogate mothers to Indigenous children and maneuvered to influence public policy affecting Indigenous people. Although some white women developed caring relationships with Indigenous children and others became critical of government policies, many became hopelessly ensnared in this insidious colonial policy.

Three plays by N. Scott Momaday (2007).  The Indolent Boys recounts the 1891 tragedy of runaways from the Kiowa Boarding School who froze to death while trying to return to their families. The play explores the consequences, for Indian students and their white teachers, of the federal program to “kill the Indian and save the Man.” A joyous counterpoint to this tragedy, Children of the Sun is a short children’s play that explains the people’s relationship to the sun. The Moon in Two Windows, a screenplay set in the early 1900s, centers on the children of defeated Indian tribes, who are forced into assimilation at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where the U.S. government established the first off-reservation boarding school.

Growing up Native American: an anthology (1993).  These are tales about boarding school, family life, conflict of traditions, life, death, children, growing up, and letting go.    Four of the stories are excerpts from books about Schooldays:  The Middle Five:  Indian Schoolboys of the Omaha Tribe by Francis La Flesche; Lame Deer Seeker of Visions by Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes; Love Medicine by Lousie Erdrich; and, A Day in the Life of Spanish by Basil Johnston.  At Last I kill a Bear is by Luther Standing Bear, who was in the first class at Carlisle.

My name is not easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson (2011).  My name is not easy. My name is hard like ocean ice grinding the shore...Luke knows his Iñupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. So he leaves it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school.  At Sacred Heart School, students—Eskimo, Indian, White—line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on.  Here, speaking Iñupiaq—or any native language—is forbidden.  Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he’s not the only one.

To show what an Indian can do: sports at Native American boarding schools by John Bloom (2000).  The Carlisle Indian School and the Haskell Institute in Kansas were among the many federally operated boarding schools designed to remove children from familiar surroundings and impose mainstream American culture on them. To Show What an Indian Can Do explores the history of sports programs at these institutions and, drawing on the recollections of former students, describes the importance of competitive sports in their lives. Author John Bloom focuses on the male and female students who did not typically go on to greater athletic glory but who found in sports something otherwise denied them by the boarding school program: a sense of community, accomplishment, and dignity.

White man's club: schools, race, and the struggle of Indian acculturation by Jacqueline  Fear-Segal, (2007).  In White Man’s Club, schools for Native children are examined within the broad framework of race relations in the United States for the first time. Jacqueline Fear-Segal analyzes multiple schools and their differing agendas and engages with the conflicting white discourses of race that underlay their pedagogies. She argues that federal schools established to Americanize Native children did not achieve their purpose; instead they progressively racialized American Indians.  Asking the reader to consider the legacy of nineteenth-century acculturation policies, White Man’s Club incorporates the life stories and voices of Native students and traces the schools’ powerful impact into the twenty-first century.

They called it prairie light: the story of Chilocco Indian School by K. Tsianina Lomawaima (1994).  Established in 1884 and operative for nearly a century, the Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma was one of a series of off-reservation boarding schools intended to assimilate American Indian children into mainstream American life.  Lomawaima allows the Chilocco students to speak for themselves. In recollections juxtaposed against the official records of racist ideology and repressive practice, students from the 1920s and 1930s recall their loneliness and demoralization but also remember with pride the love and mutual support binding them together—the forging of new pan-Indian identities and reinforcement of old tribal ones.

"To remain an Indian": lessons in democracy from a century of Native American education  by K. Tsianina Lomawaima (2006).  Drawing on extensive archival material, the authors illustrate convincingly how educational policies and practices have reflected the federal government's attempt to make a distinction between "safe" and "dangerous" Indigenous beliefs and practices.  Using Western cultural norms as the standard against which to measure Indigenous ways of being, the government might, for example, sanction children's stories or women's arts and crafts. It might also recognize or tolerate entire tribal groups, if these groups produce marketable artistic works that enable them to be economically stable. Outside that safety zone lie such dangers as Native languages and spiritual practices, including music and songs intimately connected to religious experiences. Efforts to preserve Native ways of life  are typically enacted only when those languages or traditions are believed to be nearly extinct and no longer threatening. (Ruth Spack)

Pipestone: my life in an Indian boarding school by Adam Fortunate Eagle (2010).  Best known as a leader of the Indian takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969, Adam Fortunate Eagle now offers an unforgettable memoir of his years as a young student at Pipestone Indian Boarding School in Minnesota. In this rare firsthand account, Fortunate Eagle lives up to his reputation as a “contrary warrior” by disproving the popular view of Indian boarding schools as bleak and prisonlike.  Although Fortunate Eagle recognizes Pipestone’s shortcomings, he describes his time there as nothing less than “a little bit of heaven.”

Children left behind: the dark legacy of Indian mission boarding schools by Tim A. Giago, Tim A. (2006).  Tim Giago, who spent his childhood at one of these schools, examines the unholy alliance between church and state that tried to destroy the culture and spirituality of generations of Indian children.  Describing almost inexpressible cruelties and triumphs, Giago pulls us into the boarding school experience.  His personal accounts reveal an untold tragedy of abuse of helpless children by those who had the responsibility to protect them. To fully understand the calamity, you need only to visit the graveyards of the old boarding schools and see the hundreds of graves of Indian children who did not survive the misguided assimilation efforts.

The people and the word: reading Native nonfiction by Warrior, Robert Allen Warrior (2005).  Robert Warrior traces a history of American Indian nonfiction writing, including Pequot intellectual William Apess's autobiographical works; the Osage Constitution of 1881; accounts of boarding school in the late 1880s; and modern Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday's essay “The Man Made of Words.”

Indian subjects: hemispheric perspectives on the history of Indigenous education (2014).  Indian Subjects brings together an outstanding group of scholars from the fields of anthropology, history, law, education, literature, and Native studies to address Indigenous education throughout different regions and eras.  Indian Subjects pushes beyond the history of boarding schools toward hemispheric and even global conversations, fostering a critically neglected scholarly dialogue that has too often been limited by regional and national boundaries.

Learning to write "Indian": the boarding-school experience and American Indian literature  by Amelia V. Katanski (2005).  Learning to write Indian examines Indian boarding school narratives and their impact on the Native literary tradition from 1879 to the present.  Indian boarding schools were the lynchpins of a federally sponsored system of forced assimilation.  In Learning to Write “Indian,” Amelia V. Katanski investigates the impact of the Indian boarding school experience on the American Indian literary tradition through an examination of turn-of-the-century student essays and autobiographies as well as contemporary plays, novels, and poetry.

Indian education in the American colonies, 1607-1783 by Margaret Szasz (2007).  Margaret Connell Szasz’s remarkable synthesis of archival and published materials is a detailed and engaging story told from both Indian and European perspectives. Szasz argues that the most intriguing dimension of colonial Indian education came with the individuals who tried to work across cultures. We learn of the remarkable accomplishments of two Algonquian students at Harvard, of the Creek woman Mary Musgrove who enabled James Oglethorpe and the Georgians to establish peaceful relations with the Creek Nation, and of Algonquian minister Samson Occom, whose intermediary skills led to the founding of Dartmouth College. The story of these individuals and their compatriots plus the numerous experiments in Indian schooling provide a new way of looking at Indian-white relations and colonial Indian education.

Sweetgrass basket by Marlene Carvell (2005).  Sweetgrass Basket is a young adult novel, told in the alternating voices of two young Mohawk sisters attending the now-notorious Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the early 1900s.  It is a wrenchingly beautiful story of two sisters trying to keep themselves together in an atmosphere that fosters only hate and shame. But amidst all the abuse, the children resist the value system being foisted on them, sometimes with great good humor. “I must say,” the older sister Mattie says to Sarah about the hated Mrs. Dwyer, “‘that I hope she steps in a hole and is swallowed by the earth.’ Suddenly Sarah’s eyes brighten and a smile spreads across her face. ‘Mattie, how dreadful,’ she says in mock horror. ‘What a terrible thing to do to Mother Earth.’” The ending is a surprise that’s not really a surprise. Children died at Carlisle, in front of cold, hard white people who didn’t give a damn.

Southern Ute women: autonomy and assimilation on the reservation, 1887-1934, by Katherine Osburn (1998).   A thoughtful, incisive, and well-written monograph that does much to further our understanding of the dynamic lives of Native American women in the allotment era.

Red world and white: memories of a Chippewa boyhood by John Rogers (1996).  In reminiscing about his early years on Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation at the turn of the century, John Rogers reveals much about the life and customs of the Chippewas. He tells of food-gathering, fashioning bark canoes and wigwams, curing deerskin, playing games, and participating in sacred rituals. These customs were to be cast aside, however, when he was taken to a white school in an effort to assimilate him into white society.

The people and the word: reading Native by Robert Allen Warrior (2005).  The People and the Word explores how the Native tradition of nonfiction has both encompassed and dissected Native experiences. Robert Warrior traces a history of American Indian nonfiction writing, including Pequot intellectual William Apess's autobiographical works; the Osage Constitution of 1881; accounts of boarding school in the late 1880s; and modern Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday's essay “The Man Made of Words.”

Beloved child: a Dakota way of life by Diane Wilson (2011).  “Far greater even than the loss of land, or the relentless coercion to surrender cultural traditions, the deaths of over six hundred children by the spring of 1864 were an unbearable tragedy. Nearly one hundred and fifty years after the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862, Dakota people are still struggling with the effects of this unimaginable loss.” Among the Dakota, the Beloved Child ceremony marked the special, tender affection that parents felt toward a child whose life had been threatened. In this moving book, author Diane Wilson explores the work of several modern Dakota people who are continuing to raise beloved children.