The Truth About Native American Boarding Schools

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, after the Indian Wars, the United States

government outlawed the practice of traditional Native American religious ceremonies. The

Government then established Christian boarding schools which Native American children were

required, by law, to attend. While the intended purposes of the Native American boarding schools were

to “Americanize” and “civilize”, for some Native Americans the experiences and barbaric treatment

that was inflicted upon them were anything but civilized.


Indian Wars is the name used to describe conflicts between the Federal Government

and the indigenous people of North America. The Indian Wars generally resulted in the opening of

Native American lands to continued colonization. The major before-after effect on Indians was the

change from living wherever they wanted (and in many cases, having a nomadic lifestyle) to being put

on reservations. A second important effect that goes along with the first, came when the Americans

started to try to   assimilate   the Indians by   changing their culture. This was done especially

through the use of boarding schools where Indian children were expected to lose their Indian ways and

become culturally more like white Americans. While documentation in limited to Native American life

before European colonization a poem titled “My Dreams”, by Etta Bavilla found in To Walk in Two

Worlds-Or More? Challenging a Common Metaphor Of Native Education, by Rosemary C. Henze and

Lauren Vanett gives us some insight on how it may have been:

Leaders of the past, masked,
Moved in rhythm with sounding drums,  
Our land was free and unspoiled,
As animals that dwell in the sea.
Harmony reigned among the land, the sea, and my people.
The peace is gone with forgotten dreams.
The gold we seek cannot satisfy.
Stories and songs long to be in my veins, Yet I am lost.
I cannot find the...