The U.S. government started Native American boarding schools in the 1960s. The main agenda for coming up with this institution was to assimilate and acculturate the children who were Indians from their communities and families. These children were forced to change and adopt the white culture, and the authority took their home clothes, the school administration cut their hair, and the state gave them new English names (Gregg, 2018). Native American boarding schools are connected to the Indian Americans’ poverty-the government took advantage of the Native Indian people who were seen to be poor. The children in these schools were poorly fed, had very poor living conditions, and their dormitories were poorly built and overcrowded. There was inadequate sanitation which encouraged the spread of highly infectious diseases. The idea behind coming up with the boarding school was to eliminate the Indian culture and mainstream American culture.
Initially, the U.S. government forced Indian families to take their children to school. Later, the families decided to take their children to board school because the schools were scarce and there were none available. While in boarding school, the children were separated from their families and culture for an extended period. They were deprived of their traditional and cultural rights and forced to adopt a new culture (Gregg, 2018). Their teachers taught them that their culture was inferior and had no meaning, while some teachers mocked and made fun of the children in America. This act humiliated students and left them ashamed of being American Indian. The school administration lowered the self-esteem of the Indian American students and the well-being of their culture. The Indian parents were poor and could not afford to take their children to a good school; therefore, the U.S. government took advantage of that to deprive them of their children.
Children live a nightmare kind of life where the school staff and teachers abuse the children physically, sexually, and psychologically. In addition, harsh disciplinary treatment was subjected to students when caught discussing in their native language. The learning environment was poorly designed to teach the children that they were less important and inferior since they suffered from severe poverty within the states. Some strongly resent their native culture, while others felt even more driven to discover their ancestry. However, for many, the cultural dissonance this time period produced has still been felt today by Indigenous people due to intergenerational trauma.
Many Indian students were killed and buried at the burial site next to the school. According to Boarding Schools Federal Report, many marked and unmarked burial sites were around the school. Hundreds of children have perished at these schools due to physical abuse, poor medical care, and hunger (Zephier Olson & Dombrowski 2020). One hundred and two student graves at the cemetery of Haskell Indian School alone, and at least 500 students passed away and were interred somewhere else (Fish & Syed, 2018). Even now, these demises continue. Cindy Sohappy, who had been admitted to Chemawa Boarding School (Oregon) after being inebriated, was discovered dead on December 6, 2004, in a holding cell. She was discovered lying on the ground to be not breathing and was pronounced dead a short time later. The U.S. Attorney declined to bring an involuntary manslaughter case against the personnel (Zephier Olson & Dombrowski 2020). The mother of Sohappy intended to sue the school, but due to extreme poverty, she lacked the resources to follow the justice path for her daughter. The information discussed in the Native American Boarding Schools in this report clearly shows how the program is linked to poverty and inferiority.
Fish, J., & Syed, M. (2018). Native Americans in higher education: An ecological systems perspective. Journal of College Student Development, 59(4), 387-403.
Gregg, M. T. (2018). The long-term effects of American Indian boarding schools. Journal of Development Economics, 130, 17-32.
Zephier Olson, M. D., & Dombrowski, K. (2020). A systematic review of Indian boarding schools and attachment in the context of substance use studies of Native Americans. Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities, 7(1), 62-71.