For Captain Richard Henry Pratt, the goal was complete assimilation. His motto was “Kill the Indian, Save the man.
” He was the most impacting figure in Indian education during his time. If the quote “Kill the Indian, Save the man” isn’t enough, he also wanted to “transfer the savage born infant to the surroundings of civilization and he will grow to possess a civilized language and habit.” This was common belief of religious superiority at the time, Native American culture is not important, let us force them to become whites who are more important (The Boarding School Experience, Heard Museum). The Native American parents did not want to send their kids to boarding school and the kids did not want to go to boarding school either. A San Juan Pueblo student in 1915 has this recollection at his time of departure for boarding school: “I still picture my folks until this day, just standing there crying and I was missing them.
My grandfather, tears coming out of his eyes. I got on the train and I didn’t even know who was on the train because my mind was so full of unhappiness and sadness.” Another San Juan schoolgirl had a similar memory of what happened to her in 1915, “I remember it was in October they came to get me. My mother started to cry, her? She’s just a little girl! You can’t take her. Amy mother put her best shawl on me.” The Americans were “trying to help” the Native Americans, while the Native Americans had different ideas of what the Americans were doing to them.
According to Rosemary Christiansen of Minnesota Public Radio, “I don’t believe that we can talk to harshly about what we have suffered, we Indian people have suffered from that particular point in our history, I call it… the Hiroshima, of Indian education, because it basically destroyed the fiber of our family life” (The Boarding School Experience, Heard Museum).Just when you thought what the Americans did couldn’t get any worse, not only were Indian students deprived of their ethnicity, but they also were not given a good education. According to Estelle Reele, the superintendent of Indian boarding schools in 1901, “the aim of the course is to give the Indian child a knowledge of the English language and equip him with the ability to become self-supporting as speedily as possible.” That sounds nice, but according to an Indian perspective of school from Peter Belgarde, “the business that we were taught was manual labor, vocational.
Girls were smart enough to be secretaries, that was it. Boys were taught wielding, auto mechanics, and bricklaying. These were the only things we were told we were good at. We were told not to aspire to be a doctor or a pilot because they said you were good with your hands. We weren’t allowed choice only as far as it was manual labor or vocational training” (The Boarding School Experience, Heard Museum).
Not only did the Americans try to corrupt young Indians, but they took every value from the Native American culture and completely disregarded it. The Americans’ claim to be helping the Indians is nothing short of a complete lie. It is one thing to try to have them adapt some white men cultures, but it is another to strip them of everything they believe in for an attempt to “civilize” them. The Americans took away everything from the Indians: their land, religion, even culture, and yet nobody knows about these details from the story. Americans celebrate getting this land, but it isn’t like they were handed the land on a silver platter, they forcefully took it while removing the Indians from a land that should be theirs today (Native American History and Culture: Boarding Schools).
Americans should really be ashamed of what they did to the Native Americans, but it isn’t society’s fault for not being ashamed. This is because America covered up what they did very well. There is no Indian account of what happened in a textbook, rather only the part where the Americans got land.
The textbooks are biased in the fact that they don’t provide ample information for the American youth to properly assess the situation. The textbooks blind Americans with information that they want us to know, rather than what really happened. Unfortunately, there are those who wish to engage in the murder of Native Americans denial.
A common myth is the effort to blame the massive death toll exclusively on diseases brought by the European invaders. Like all deceptions in history there is an element of truth here. Many Native Americans did die of European diseases.
However, there is a very convenient effort to ignore the fact that all too many of these people became vulnerable to disease when their essentials of life were either stolen or disrupted by the invaders. Furthermore, the campaigns of direct and indirect genocide certainly killed millions all by itself. The murdering of innocent Indians can never be forgotten and Americans should be aware of their barbaric history.