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At the end of the 19th century, Native Americans Indian children attended government boarding schools. Native Americans families were forced to send their children to these schools, and they were also forced to stop speaking their native Americans. But, what was the purpose of these boarding schools?. In this essay will be explaining the boarding schools, who were Henry Ward Beecher and Sitting Bull, and evaluate it.
The purpose of these schools was made to eliminate traditional American Indian habits of life and substitute them by American culture. These internships hurt the self-esteem of Indian students. The government founded the first boarding school. Later, Indian families decided to send their children because there were no other schools available. Plus, the government made the Indians sent their children to these internees because they left them without an option. For a long time, children had to live without their families and their culture. They were forced to cut their hair, change their native names and use the names that the English gave them, and leave their traditional dress. They had to convert to Christianity, leaving aside their beliefs. If any of them spoke their native language, they would be punished. These children had to go through a lot, even if they were not had the fault. Some teachers made fun of student traditions and taught them to be ashamed of what they were. Because of these situations, they felt humiliated.
The second topic is who Henry War Beecher was. Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Lyman Beecher, a leading minister, and congregational educator. In 1837 he was called to a Presbyterian ministry in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where he developed his preaching techniques, and from 1839 to 1847, he ministered in Indianapolis. In 1847, Beecher went to a Congregational church in Brooklyn, New York. In 1854 Beecher and his congregation were utterly objected to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. So, he and his group went to purchase rifles to arm the antislavery troops in the territories. Those arms were dubbed “Beecher’s Bibles.” When the Civil War exploded, Beecher made a fundraiser, which would support a volunteer regiment of the union. Although Beecher was famous at that time, he was not exempt from problems. Henry was sued by Theodore Tilton, a former friend, in 1874 for alleged adultery with his ex-friend’s wife. Although Henry Ward was considered the best clerical speaker of his century, he also had people who did not love him. It was because he was considered the embodiment of what he did not like; A man with liberal ideas and committed to religion and politics.
Also, he has a famous quote that says, ”The common schools are the stomachs of the country in which all people that come to us are assimilated within a generation. When a lion eats an ox, the lion does not become an ox, but the ox becomes a lion.” Which is related to the case of Indians and government with the boarding schools. First, they are related because, like the quote, when a lion eats an ox, the lion does not become an ox, but instead, the ox becomes a lion. In this case, the lion can be represented as the government and that society, while the Native Americans are the ox. Just as the lion ate the ox without warning, the government interposed its rules and laws to natives as they wanted. Native Americans have no choice to adapt and abandon their cultures and traditions as the government wanted. They had to assimilate into that new generation, going through humiliations and bad times.
The third topic is about Sitting Bull. Sitting was born in 1831, into the Hunkpapa division of the Teton Sioux. He died on December 15, 1890, in the Grand River. He was an Indian chief of Teton Dakota; he is known for the distrust he had for the white men and his decided determination of resistance towards that group. Under his commission, the Sioux peoples united to fight for survival in the Great Plains of North America. He was part of his first war group at age 14, where he earned a reputation for bravery in battle. He was the leader of the Strong Heart warrior society and participated in a group that preached the welfare of the tribes. In 1866, he became the chief of the northern Sioux hunters. Time later, he was named the chief of the Sioux nation. In 1868, the second Fort Laramie treaty made the Sioux accept peace with the government. The treat guaranteed a reservation to the Sioux. In the 1870s, whites discovering was gold in the Black Hills. They were invading territories that had been promised to the Indians through the treaty. At the end of 1875, the Sioux, who had resisted the whites, had to return to reservations for the government’s orders. Otherwise, they would be considered hostile.
He also has a quote, which says “If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans; in my heart, he put other and different desires. Each man is good in the sight of the Great Spirit. It is not necessary, that eagles should be crows.” This can be interpreted as follows; He believed that he should act according to how he saw the world. He should fight for what he believed and feel that this was his purpose. Every culture is different and is not wrong, as he says, “Every man is good in the sight of the Great Spirit.” A Culture is one of the things that form people.
The fourth topic is about the Eastern Reformers. The Native Americans received help from the Eastern reformers. This group believed that the only way to make Native Americans survive in that new society was to become part of it. The government, on the other hand, thought that they had to transform this group into productive and self-sufficient people for American society. The president saw it as an aid to Native Americans, not as privatization, as this would help give equality to Native Americans. But this generated some problems against the new immigration; This consisted of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, where most were Catholics or Jews. It was not a group of people who served well for the United States because the majority had illiterates, of questionable health, and inclined to support political philosophies different from that of the US. But this did not affect the growth and development of this country. In 1881, Helen Hunt Jackson, one of the reformists, published a book in which she talked about white aggression and federal Indian politics. He also explained that the more the tribe of Indians propagated, the more they would face cruelty and anger. This book helped a group that would later be called “The Friends of the Indians,” found an association of rights of the Indians. They had been surprised by the educational failures, the deterioration of the health of the Indians, and the absence of building a concrete economic base for them.
The members of the association spoke with native Americans leaders and said that the key leaders of the congress sponsored the reform projects. The organization had a positive effect; it had particular objectives such as the detribalization of the Indians and the basis of Americanism. Senator Henry Dawes was responsible for sponsoring the General Assignment Act in Congress, and President Grover Cleveland signed the law on February 8, 1887. The purpose of this law was to allow the federal government to divide reserve lands into areas. Individual or assign each man of a family a certain quantity of acres. If the Indian accepted, he was granted US citizenship. For congress, this law was the necessary step for the acculturation of the native Americans. In 1907 the Burke Act was approved. It is conceded the secretary of the prerogative to declare an Indian title along with US citizenship. But before, the Indian office had to conclude that the allottee was qualified.
Another important topic was christianizing the indians. How was mentioned before, the indians believe in spirituality; meanwhile, whites beliave in christianity. So, the white people wanted to force them to leave in one side their believes and covert them in their religion. Unlike Christianity, Indian spirituality was linked to the earth, it was based on the connection of things and creatures. On the other hand, Christianity was based on the absolute word of God. In the book of genesis, God grants humans dominion over animals and plants. That is why white people did not understand or respect the religion of the natives.
Going back to the issue of education, reformers had hopes that education based on Western academics and reinforced by vocational training and discipline would detribalize native children. In doing so, this would lead them to Americanize. Soon, the Indian office would establish internships in the largest reserves. Although the idea was to help the Indians, many Indians refused to separate from their children, so some American agents forced parents to send their children to schools. Then was founded Carlisle Indian Indrustrial School. Henry Pratt created that school to end with Native Americans. Its means that he wanted the society of the Indians to cease to exist, and that they began to make only one race. In spite of being something external, it was not cataloged like that at that time. The school ended up being an example for other schools that decided to implement this same program. Then the rule was implemented that their hair had to be cut and the prohibition of speaking their native language would otherwise be punished.
In conclusion, the idea of creating these schools was actually for the benefit of American society. Some people were interested in helping the Native Americans, but other people took advantage of them. The Native Americans were a strong and determined group, to “tame them” they have no choice to scare them by killing Indians. They also wanted to interpose a religion, and for this they had to force them too. They proposed to give him citizenship, when in reality they were already citizens.
- “Boarding Schools.” Native Words Native Warriors, Education Office, https://americanindian.si.edu/education/codetalkers/html/chapter3.html.
- Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Sitting Bull.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 8 Oct. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sitting-Bull.
- “Henry Ward Beecher.” United State History, https://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h729.html.
- Townsend, Kenneth W., and Mark A. Nicholas. “Chapter 11: The Struggle For Cultural Identity.” First Americans: A History of Native Peoples , 2nd ed., Combined Volumen, Routledge, 2019, pp. 365–381.
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