Indian Boarding Schools

The significant differences between the whites and Indians caused the first ones to create a boarding school for the aboriginal population. Their main purpose was to assimilate Indians with a white society. In particular, people from the early ages were taught to speak English, wear clothes typical for the whites, and have the same haircuts. However, these studies did not bring the desired result. In particular, school leavers faced the prejudice and discrimination from the side of whites. In addition, they were taught how to serve. Thus, this made them felt lower than the people of the white race from the beginning. Moreover, studying at boarding schools led to a bad treatment from the side of representatives of their own reservations because most of school leavers forgot their language. They could not communicate with others, including their parents. Besides, they did not know the rules and traditions of their community, so they felt differently everywhere (Townsed and Nichols 365-381). The aim of this paper is to investigate deeper a role of Indian boarding schools as well as to analyze an attitude of contemporaries, particularly Henry Ward Beecher and Sitting Bull.

Interpretations of the Quotes and Explaining the Reasons of Their Appearance

To begin with, both Henry Ward Beecher and Sitting Bull were standing against Indian boarding schools. Their attitude had been predetermined by their lives and work. Thus, Sitting Bull was raised as a hunter and a warrior. For example, when he was five, he already had been able to ride a horse behind his mother and helped his camp. When Sitting Bull was ten, he was riding his own pony as well as he could use a bow and arrows. Besides, he competed against other boys in wrestling, swimming, and races. In other words, Sitting Bull’s early childhood was interesting, active, and full of freedom. He could do what he wanted and be with his family as well as his tribe. Moreover, he loved his life, so it probably became an ideal picture of childhood for Indians. Therefore, when he became older, he stood against Indian boarding schools that were offering the completely different experience for children. Besides that fact that he did not study there at the boarding school, it probably helped him to save his leadership skills, stubbornness, and convincing abilities in arguments. It later allowed him to become a chief of Hunkpapa in 1857 (Clark). However, if he studied at a boarding school, he would have lost all these positive qualities. The schools were not interested in people with strong characters. The main aim was to make Indians quiet and peaceful because there were the wars between whites and Indians when these schools had been first opened. On the other hand, not only the early life influenced Sitting Bulls’s position towards boarding schools. In particular, the violation of peace agreement in 1870 by the whites taught him that any Euro-American did not deserve trust. Their motives were harmful for Indians because they had destroyed Indian plains to build railroads and started mining gold from aboriginal sacred places. However, these events did not destruct Sitting Bull’s character. He moved from Lakota to Montana and continued keeping old traditions. Some of Indians supported his position and joined his camp. To some extent, he became a symbol of resistance and fighting against whites. However, he was not able to win the following battle because an army of white Americans was much bigger. Nevertheless, he became an example for many other Indians how to fight for the own identity and freedom (Clark). As for his quote that the Great Spirit had created him the humans with other desires and plans on purpose and that if he wanted him to be other person, particularly, the white, he would have done this in the beginning, it responded all his life decisions. In particular, all his life he was trying to live following his Indian traditions such as hunting, riding horses, and helping the community members. He also meant that all people were different but it did not mean that were better or worse. All humans are important for the Great Spirit, so it is not reasonable to refuse or subdue the own inner desires.

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As for Henry Ward Beecher, he was a famous reformer and a fighter for human rights. Particularly, he was standing for equal rights for all citizens. Therefore, his negative attitude towards Indian boarding schools is completely logical. Such decisions of Henry Ward Beecher were probably formed in his early years because he had been raised on religious values. In his family, the discipline was really strict. For example, he could not dance or read fiction. On the other hand, he had to pray and participate in different religious procedures (Bailey). As for his quote about common schools, it meant that children that were visiting these institutions were assimilated within a generation because they could not fight against a stronger competitor for a long time especially if this competitor was much more experienced. In fact, this strategy of assimilation through boarding seems to be very wise because children, especially in their early years, could be assimilated easier than adults. They did not have form any values, opinions, and etc. They knew only one truth. In the case of pupils of Indian boarding schools, it says that old Indian traditions were wrong; and only the traditions of whites were true.

Relating Quotes to Real Life Experiences

Both quotes can be directly related to the experiences of children at boarding schools. In particular, the quote of Henry Ward Beecher about the assimilation can be supported by many facts as well. For instance, children started studying when they were three years old. It was the moment when they did not know well about traditions of their tribes and even those who knew easily forgot everything. Particularly, they even forgot their own Indian names. Besides, teachers made people throw away their Indian clothes and start wearing clothes being common for whites. The same happened to their hair. For instance, their long hair had to be cut. Instead they needed to have short haircuts. However, one of the worst things was that they were not allowed to speak Indian languages. As a result, they could not communicate with their relatives, including parents. There was a case when a boy came to visit his grandmother. When she said that his new name was Billy, she held him that she did not have a grandson with such name. She accepted only relatives with Indian names (Townsed and Nichols 370). Therefore, Beecher’s schools seem to be very reasonable as well as a phrase that lion eats ox and saves his own identity whereas ox does not. It can be supported by the fact that whites did not import any Indian traditions. However, the Indian identity had been destroyed completely. Besides, this assimilation was completed just for one generation because people that had finished boarding schools could only raise their children in the traditions of whites. Their Indian traditions had been lost forever (Townsed and Nichols 377). As for Sitting Bull’s quote, it can be supported by the fact that children that were studying at Indian boarding schools were not happy. Many of them suffered from abuse, particularly the physical one. Therefore, in the future, they could not have happy personal lives. Some of them started to abuse their own kids because they knew only these methods. In addition, children that finished Indian boarding schools were strangers in both communities and could not fight their place in the society (Townsed and Nichols 380).


In conclusion, the Indian Boarding Schools have accomplished the main aim of white Americans to assimilate Indians into their community. It also helped to destroy their desires to fight for freedom and their own identity. Moreover, whites have got good servants. However, those Indians that believed that these schools would give their children a qualitative education did not achieve the desirable aims. In particular, there pupils were bad at mathematics and English. For example, they could not make simple calculations as well as did not know the parts of speech. Besides, the dreams of Indians to become equal members of the American society were not satisfied either. Many of such people were facing the prejudices and discrimination from the side of white Americans. Aboriginals could only work as servants or have other low-paid jobs. In fact, it was favorable for the whites because assimilated Americans did not think about fighting against them. In addition, they did not get any support from their tribes due to losing all their similarities, including the common language. In other words, Indian Boarding Schools allowed achieving the aims of whites whereas the goals of Indians stayed unaccomplished (Townsed and Nichols 380).

Therefore, the critics of Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher were correct. On one hand, children that were studying at Indian Boarding Schools were assimilated within a generation. On the other hand, this assimilation did not bring them any success and happiness in their lives. On the example of Sitting Bull’s life, we can see that the only person that keeps the own identity is able to find a proper place in the life. In particular, Sitting Bull managed to become a respectful chief and warrior that had been fighting for the ideas he believed in. In addition, according to him, there are no wrong plans and desires as well as all people are equally important for God. If he wanted to make him a white a man, he would do this in the beginning of creation. There is no need to go against the God’s will. As we see, this opinion of Sitting was also correct. However, the development of technology and globalization has demonstrated that people cannot avoid assimilation completely. That is why Sitting Bull’s quote should be modernized. Thus, people should change themselves in accordance with the desires that they have in their hearts. For example, if they prefer wearing long haircuts instead of short ones being traditional for their communities they should do this. The same can be also applied for Beecher’s quote about a lion and an ox. The forces of both sides have become more equal. Thus, the lion starts receiving some features of the ox; whereas the ox saves its own traits.

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