Overlooked History: Indian Boarding Schools

Education is a gift. It is the key to many things we as a country hold dear: freedom, democracy, and upward economic mobility. It can never be a bad thing, right?

Except it can be and has been. The Indian Boarding School Movement was a dark period in education from the late 18th century into the early 20th century in the United States. These were often began by Christian missionaries and then funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The philosophy of most can be summed up in the words of the founder of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, Richard Henry Pratt, “Kill the Indian. Save the man.” These schools sought to assimilate Native children by (often forcibly) removing them from their families and tribes and punishing them for any signs of “Indian” while at the school. They were not allowed to speak their Native language or follow any customs, including manner of dress or hair.

The proponents of these schools spoke in flowery terms of opening opportunities to the students to join “civilized” society and be successful. The result however was the near extinction of many Native languages and cultures. The children were often subjected to physical abuse in addition to the emotional damage caused by the removal from family and being taught that their very essence was wrong and something of which to be ashamed.

To learn more about this movement and the impact on Natives to this day, you can check out:

Our Spirits Don’t Speak English – d1x“a Native American perspective on Indian Boarding Schools. This DVD produced by Rich-Heape Films, Inc. uncovers the dark history of U.S. Government policy which took Indian children from their homes, forced them into boarding schools and enacted a policy of educating them in the ways of Western Society. This DVD gives a voice to the countless Indian children forced through a system designed to strip them of their Native American culture, heritage and traditions.

View collections of photographs at:

An Indian Boarding School Photo Gallery and Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center

Further Reading:

Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Experiences, 1879-2000

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