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The Final Promise

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 2 years, 3 months ago


The Final Promise - The Campaign to Assimilate Native Americans [1880 to 1924]

Cultural absorption of American Indians is promoted by white America forcing Native American to

abandon their traditional appearance and recreate themselves in the white man’s image






Context of Government Policy and Attempts at Reform 

White Perspective “ Kill the Indian to save the man” 

Inability to see other people as fully developed members of the human race (familiar narrative?)

Native Americans are heathens that need to be Christianized (familiar narrative?)

Close to Christianity = Good (Even if it is painful, unpleasant, and cruel)


The Carlisle Indian Industrial School of Pennsylvania (1879–1918) 


During the Grant administration, the United States began experimenting with new colonial institutions, the most pernicious of which were the boarding schools, modeled on Fort Marion prison. In 1875, Captain Richard Henry Pratt was in charge of transporting seventy-two captive Cheyenne and other Plains Indian warriors from the West to Fort Marion, an old Spanish fortress, dark and dank.


After the captives were left shackled for a period in a dungeon, Pratt took their clothes away, had their hair cut, dressed them in army uniforms, and drilled them like soldiers. "Kill the Indian and save the man" was Pratt's motto. This "successful" experiment led Pratt to establish the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in 1879, the prototype for the many militaristic federal boarding schools set up across the continent soon after, augmented by dozens of Christian missionary boarding schools. The decision to establish Carlisle and other off-reservation boarding schools was made by the US Office of Indian Affairs, later renamed the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).



"Kill the Indian and save the man"

The stated goal of the project was assimilation. Indigenous children were prohibited from speaking their mother tongues or practicing their religions, while being indoctrinated in Christianity


The goal was to eliminate customs, rituals, and way of life of Native Americans and teach young Native American children the White Man's way


Unfamiliar Environment


CLIPSIn the White Man's Image (25:30) and Into the West - Carlisle Indian School (10 Minutes)

Documentary - Unspoken: Native American Boarding Schools [56 minutes]






Extreme Makeover: American Indian Edition: Before and After


A Navajo boy named Tom Torlino as he entered the Carlisle Indian School and a short time after the "reforming" process had begun.  Indian schools are modeled on Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute (1881), the leading Black agricultural and industrial school.   https://carlisleindianschoolproject.com/past/






The Pen is Mightier than the Sword



"The history of the Government connections with the Indians is a shameful record of broken treaties and unfulfilled promises.

The history of the border white man's connection with the Indians is a sickening record of murder, outrage,

robbery, and wrongs committed by the former, as the rule, and occasional savage outbreaks and unspeakably  barbarous deeds of retaliation by the latter, as the exception."

Helen Hunt Jackson


Mrs. Jackson's  research led to opposition to government treatment of Native Americans. The solution was to make the Indians white. This policy destroyed Indians as a distinct nation. 




Dawes Severalty Act (1887)

Cultural absorption of American Indians in  white America by forcing Native American to abandon their traditional appearance and dress like “Americans.”



160 acres given to family heads (on reservations).  


Conform to European land use patterns, using private property as a cornerstone.  


Irony? Indians really don’t get much land. Loosely held land holdings swindled by whites


1881155,000 acres


1890104, 000 acres


190077,000 acres


“‘Wasichu’ is a Lakota word that means ‘non-Indian,’ but another version of this word means ‘the one who takes the best meat for himself.’” 





Loss of the Tribal Estate as a Result of the Dawes Act





Net effect of US Government Indian policy is the Native Americans become wards of the state.











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