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The Impact Of Sports In Native American Boarding Schools

1978 words - 8 pages

The presence of activity and sport is found within cultures and societies all over the world, and throughout history. Activity in the form of sport can often be the purest form of expression for a society or individual. The sporting world is often thought to be a microcosm of the actual world with the problems and issues of society still being ever present in the sporting community. Since sport can be used as an expression of self, it is no wonder that sport is often a reflection of the society that it occupies. One such society that was deeply impacted by the role of sport is that of Native American boarding school students in the 1800’s and 1900’s. These students lived tough lives but just like how it had helped other cultural societies, sport was able to provide these students with basic needs of autonomy and pride.
At these boarding schools, Native American children were able to leave their Indian reservations to attend schools that were often run by wealthy white males. These individuals often did not create these schools with the purest of intentions for they often believed that land occupied by Native American Tribes should be taken from them and put to use; it is this belief that brought about the purpose of the boarding schools which was to attempt to bring the Native American community into mainstream society (Bloom, 1996). These boarding schools are described to have been similar to a military institution or a private religious school. The students were to wear uniforms and obey strict rules that included not speaking one’s native tongue but rather only speaking English. Punishments for not obeying such rules often included doing laborious chores or being physically reprimanded (Bloom, 1996). Even with harsh restrictions, the students of the boarding schools comment that they were able to develop a sense of personal autonomy that reflected their own tradition and culture (Bloom, 1996). It was through sport that these children were able to develop a sense of self and be able to respect their culture while still obeying the rules of the boarding schools. Even though it was through sports that the students were able to ultimately express themselves, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which was the governing body responsible for protecting the rights of the Native American population, tried to abolish athletics from these boarding schools (Bloom, 1996). The reasoning for this was that the BIA felt that the boarding schools were taken advantage of the talent youth to use their athleticism for their own profit for most the boarding schools were elite when it came to athletics. Sometimes the actions with the best intentions can cause the most harm. Even though society may have believed that the boarding schools were exploiting the Native American children through sport, it was actually the sport that was giving the children the freedom and sovereignty that they were longing for.
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