Native Americans put up a good fight in defending their homelands against foreign invaders. Unfortunately, they suffered defeat and realized they would have to adapt to a new way of life. The battle for their lands was over, but the battle for their identities would just begin. However, it would not be the hardened warriors engaging in this conflict. Instead, the young Native American children would witness first-hand the American government’s solution to the Indian problem. Boarding schools were established to assimilate Native American children into white society. These boarding schools had both positive and negative impacts on the children.
Education was seen as the key to saving the Indians and would be forced upon them if necessary (Calloway, 425). The adults of Native American tribes were the first target for this approach (Calloway, 425). However, the plan backfired due to many adults resisting the assimilation project (Calloway, 425). The next step was to go after easier targets; the children (Calloway, 425). It proved to be a haunting experience for the children as many were pulled out of their own mothers’ arms (Calloway, 426).
Some children were already attending schools located on the reservation (Calloway, 426). The education reformers thought it was best to relocate the children to school off the reservation (Calloway, 426). They wanted to isolate the children from their Indian ways and that meant taking them away from family and culture (Calloway, 426). At first, only a couple of off reservation schools were established. The Hampton Institute and Carlisle Indian School were among the first and most famous (Calloway, 426). As the success of these schools progressed, many more were established to reflect their image (Calloway, 426).
When the children arrived to the schools, they were stripped of everything that identified them as Native Americans. The young boys’ had their long hair cut and their native clothes were replaced by white man garments (“Indian Boarding Schools,” n.d.). In addition, the children were homesick and spent numerous nights crying for their parents (“Indian Boarding Schools,” n.d.). One student, Lone Wolf of the Blackfoot tribe, stated, “If we thought the days were bad, the nights were much worse. This is when the loneliness set in, for this was when we knew that we were all alone” (“Indian Boarding Schools,” n.d.).
The daily life of the students was run with a militaristic style. They were awakened very early in the morning, had to march everywhere they went, and conducted military exercises between classes (“Indian Boarding Schools,” n.d.). There was also no relaxation as the students only had less than of hour of free time a day (“Indian Boarding Schools,” n.d.). After school, the students were given additional chores and had to attend evening lectures (“Indian Boarding Schools,” n.d.). Also, at no time where the children allowed speaking of their native tongues (“Indian Boarding Schools,” n.d.). Those...