Name: My Nguyen
Mark R. Welsh
A Dueling Document: “Americanizing” The Indian
Selected from Experience History, Volume 2 page 489
In the article “Americanizing” The Indian, Richard Pratt and Zitkala-Sa describe that the federal government began a program to “Americanize” Indians in 1887, by force if necessary. Children were separated from parents and sent to boarding schools such as the one at the Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. Its founder, Captain Richard Pratt, explains the rationale for the schools in the document 1 (Advantages of “Americanizing” Indians), and also Zitkala-Sa (later known as Gertrude Simmons Bonin) describes the experience from an Indian’s point of view
Captain Richard Pratt is famous by the phrase “the only good Indian is a dead one”, however “kill the Indian in him, and save man” is much more meaningful. This phrase reflects a goal, which is to assimilate the Aboriginal or "Indian" populations of North America into a European culture, particularly British and French. I think that he is referring to killing the culture, heritage and anything else that is considered "Indian". If that is done then you saved him. It is called assimilation.
Richard Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in 1879, the first off-reservation boarding school for Native kids. Carlisle, of course, is famous for creating a high-speed form of football with an all-Native team. The school is also famous for stealing many kids away from their Native parents and depriving a group of Native kids of their homeland. The school at Carlisle is an attempt on the part of the government to plant American customs, invite them into experiences in our communities. Carlisle has always planted treason to the tribe and loyalty to the nation at large, also preached against colonizing Indians. Carlisle fills young man with the spirit of loyalty to the stars and stripes.
In the document 2 “An Indian Girl’s Experience”, the cutting of her long hair symbolized that she had become power less and a coward for choosing to go to school. This is a major conflict in her life because it was another stepping stone to become farther away from her native way of living. Also it was another stepping stone to becoming more like a pale face. She finds herself depressed because of all the changes happening so fast. Her mood shortly after her cutting of her long hair became frustrated and upset. She realizes from this she was lost her voice and her will to be free. Zitkala-Sa expresses the irony that the maltreated student is extremely unhappy upon returning home and finally feels the urge to return to the place of her earlier sufferings. While the style is sometimes stilted or sentimental, it is at other times direct and powerful, as, for example, in the passage on the hair cutting. In learning about American Indian customs and beliefs ("short hair was worn by mourners, and shingled hair by cowards"), we are made to experience the trauma of the child. In hearing the mother's desperate cry for help from the spirits of her departed warrior brothers, we can sense the tragic family divisions caused by forced assimilation.
In short, it helps me understand the goals and consequences of Federal Indian Policies related to the creation of boarding schools for American Indian children, learn some more academic language. By the way, history helps provide a map that dictates to you as an individual and your society where it is exactly that you are going and where you are coming from. History also helps me know some substantive knowledge of the social, political, economic of the nation. Moreover, it is useful because it develops broader perspective and deeper understandings of our world.
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