Cartoon by James Giago Davies / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today Editorial: Taking back our Indian education system

‘Kill the Indian; save the man’

This summer has gone by much faster that most summers we remember.

First of all the cold weather seemed to hang on forever with snow storms coming far into April. When school let out for the summer, summer really wasn’t here yet and when it finally got here it went by far too quickly and guess what, the Back-to-School sales have already started and in a couple of weeks school will be in session.

The educational system on the Indian reservations across America have always operated at the whims of the federal government until recently and the old saying, “If you think the government can do everything for you, ask an Indian” was never more true.

U.S. Army general Richard Henry Pratt is seen here with an Indian boarding school student, circa 1880. Pratt was the founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and advocated the Kill the Indian -- Save the Man approach to the education of Indian children. Photo: U.S. Military Institute, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Just before the turn of the 20th century the boarding schools came into vogue. Children were taken from their homes and oftentimes hauled miles away from their home reservations to schools as far away as Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. And these schools were more like schools of indoctrination than schools of learning.

On the Pine Ridge Reservation there was the Bureau of Indian Affairs School in Pine Ridge Village. It was called Oglala Community School at one time and then Pine Ridge School. Four miles to the north of Pine Ridge was the Holy Rosary Indian Mission Boarding School.

It is ironic that both of these schools, one government and the other parochial, set out to destroy a culture, a language and a religion. The schools were intended to acculturate and assimilate the Lakota children. The vivid television shots of a young immigrant girl crying because her father had been taken away played out over and over at the boarding schools.

There are few of the elders left who lived through these experimental programs in education that were pushed by the federal government, but those still living can recall the tears and the fear that came to the children of the reservations every fall when school started.


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