Education, Schools and Language on the Six Nations Reservations

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The pagan element, as a general rule, is opposed to education. Exceptions are sometimes found.

Families with small means, unwilling to make any effort to change their condition, claim that they need their children for homework. Even when they enter them at the beginning of the term, they do not enforce their attendance. The children, to a large extent, inherit careless, sluggish, indolent natures, and a lazy spirit.

In some respects their capacities are above the average standard of the white people. They are more uniformly good penmen, good musicians, and excel in drawing, but the statements of the Indians as to reading, writing, and speaking the English language magnify the facts. Their reading, as a general rule, goes little beyond the slow mechanical utterances of fixed lessons. Letters are merely objects easily memorized and related to each other in their fixed order, but the thought involved is rarely recognized. There are bright exceptions in all the schools, as well as among adults, but the ability to read ordinary books and papers is an after growth. Writing, to many, is even more difficult than reading, but their mechanical copying, for which they have a natural faculty, will compare favorably with that of the best schools of the same grade in any state, girls and women doing better in this respect than boys and men. In Several families the educated women have, the care of their husbands books and correspondence, and their social temperaments lead to letter writing, as among the white people. Thus, a woman of Cattaraugus conducts a successful school at Cornplanter, across the Pennsylvania line, which is attended by 9 white boys and 3 white girls, and her letters are examples of good composition, and their tone is that of a faithful, earnest, christian worker. She has a good normal school training, to which at least 20 of the Seneca girls now aspire. Another, also a normal school graduate, speaks and writes with purity of diction and expression, has refined manners, grace and dignity, and a personal carriage, which would not discredit the best, society. Three, including a retired teacher, who also taught freedmen in the south, and the afternoon teacher at the Onondaga state school, had the benefit of normal school training at Albany.

In contrast with these cases is the fact that very few of the men who can conduct ordinary conversation in fair English can clothe the same ideas with correctly written forms. Their court records, books, and correspondence, with the exception of portions of the records of the Seneca Nation, are generally full of errors. A fairly written constitution was revised by a citizen lawyer. “I do it if you want me do it” illustrates one form of a common statement, and the simplest connection of subject, and predicate is the most common This is partly because their own language is limited, and only careful training can secure good results. One of the people thus illustrates this idea: “The Seneca language can not carry what the E4glish can”. Taking from his parlor table the Buffalo Courier, he read the following sentence: “The diplomatic correspondence concerning the Bering strait embolic does not seem to relieve the situation from embarrassment”, adding, “You can not translate that into Seneca. There is no mental preparation or material out of which to explain the matter”.

The Indian mind, which is quick to catch practical relations and natural correspondences or associations, lacks the mental discipline and the mental qualities which grasp pure logic. Their language seems to lack the stock from which to frame a compact and harmonious postulate. This accounts for the unusual backwardness of their children in pure mathematics. The person just quoted says: “Our people, especially our old men, have no conception of numbers any farther than hundreds. When you get to thousands, it is always a box or so many boxes, because in old times the annuities were paid in gold, the amount, $1,000, being so marked on the box”.

The deportment of Indian children in the schoolroom is exemplary. Those who attend are well dressed and well behaved. At fully 20 schools visited there was no whispering or side play when the teacher’s attention was diverted. Obedience is willing and prompt, but tardiness and irregular attendance, as elsewhere intimated, seem to be instinctive, as at church or other definite appointments. The success of the Friends school, of the Thomas orphan asylum, and of normal school training in the education of the Indian lies in the system and routine of duty which exact punctuality and accept no compromise. The pupils return home after mere primary training and at the very point where the more intelligent can catch glimpses beyond their reach of opportunities for teaching or some other profitable calling in life through educational development. Once at home they drop into the old ruts, utterly unable to put their primary training to practical use.

The schools upon the 6 reservations in New York are as follows: 1 at Onondaga, employing a male teacher in the morning and an Indian female- teacher in the afternoon; 3 at Tonawanda, employing 1 male and 2 female teachers; 6 at Allegany (a seventh building being abandoned), employing 2 male and 4 female teachers; 10 at Cattaraugus, although numbered to eleven (the Thomas orphan asylum school practically counted as number 4), with 2 male and 8 female teachers; 2 at Tuscarora, 1 being taught by a native Tuscarora woman of good education, winning address, and admirable tact; and 5 at St. Regis employing 5 female teachers.

With the single exception of the dilapidated, unattractive, unwholesome “mission boarding school building” at Tuscarora, long ago unfit for school use, all the state buildings are well lighted, ventilated, and attractive. In this, building, against all adverse conditions, the teacher makes the best of her surroundings, and holds her pupils fairly well by her magnetic force. Prevalence of the measles kept an unusual number at home the past year, and the interest of educated and Christian parents seems to be lessened by the failure of the state to build a new schoolhouse. The Tuscarora Nation has repeatedly declared a readiness to share in the expense of such an enterprise.

The old dormitory of the former boarding school is partly woodhouse and partly barn. In one wing Miss Abigail Peek, the veteran teacher and missionary, resides, and at the age of 80 retains a fresh memory of her earnest work, which began in 1853. The original school was organized as early as 1808 as a mission school, in charge of Rev. Mr. Holmes, the first missionary to the Tuscaroras. In 1858 the American board of commissioners for foreign missions transferred the school to the state of New York.

The second school at Tuscarora is taught by the daughter of a man who devoted many years to teaching and promoting the welfare of this people, and who, with his family, has been among the most patriotic and self-sacrificing pioneers of Niagara county, The teachers of Indian schools are compelled to endure another discrimination against them in receiving less per week than others.

The Onondaga school, first in order, is taken as an illustration of the difficulties and embarrassments attending the teacher’s work. The building, erected by the state of New York, is especially attractive and well located. A glance at the map will show that a great majority of the families live within a mile’s distance. The clergyman teaches in the morning and an Indian lady teachers in the afternoon. At the fall term, 1889, the school opened with 12 scholars. The daily attendance during the 5 days of the first week was, respectively, 12, 19, 28, 21, 19, a total of 99 days’ attendance. The totals for the succeeding 8 weeks were, respectively, 145, 132, 127, 159, 129, 81, 172, 177, the last being during the week before Christmas. Average daily attendance for first week was 19.8; for the succeeding 8 weeks as follows: 29, 26.4, 25.4, 31.8, 25.8, 16.2, 34.5, 35.4. The total number entered on the register during that period was 64. At the winter term only 45 pupils were registered. At the spring term 50 registered. The highest attendance any one day during the year was 32, on the 10th of April, 1890. Only 12 attended every day, even during the Christmas week, and one of these missed but 1 day in the term. Nine other pupils attended 40 or more days, and 26 were quite regular. The correspondingly fair attendance for the winter term was 18 and for the spring term 14. Two boys were above the age of 18. Of the others registered, 32 were males and 30 females, between the ages of 6 and 18, the average age being 10.66 years.

Those who lived farthest away were frequently the most punctual in attendance. One scholar, who came from far up Lafayette creek, from the home of a venerable Oneida chief and a Christian man, lost but 1 day during the month of December; the highest average of the year, however, was attained during this mouth. These details indicate that in this school and in other schools there are thoroughly faithful, ambitious, wide awake, cleanly, well dressed pupils. They are neither bashful nor bold, but self-possessed, obedient, and willing.

The tabulation of the following data is impracticable owing to the variety of’ the information obtained:

Tonawanda Reservation Schools

School No. 1, frame building, cost $287; total annual salaries of teacher and employees, $252; all other expenses, $45; Indian contribution for fires, $10; accommodations for 35 scholars; largest attendance at a single session, 21; 9 males and 16 females attended 1 month or more; 8 males and 15 females are between 6 and 18 years of age; 1 male and 1 female are under 6 years of age; average age of pupils, 10 years; average daily attendance during the year, 9; largest average for a month, 18, in June 1890. Illness of the teacher and a temporary supply scattered the children. The school is on the north and south road leading to the manual farm building.

School No. 2, frame building, similar to No. 1 in cost, equipment, salaries, accommodations, and expenses; largest attendance at a single session, 29; 27 males and 12 females attended 1 month or more; 21 males and 12 females are between the ages of 6 and 18; 1 male is over 18 and 2 girls are under 6 years of age; number of months of school, 9; average ago of pupils, 11 years; average attendance during the year, 15; largest average attendance for a month, 21.6, in June, 1890. It is a model school, admirably conducted, situated on the central triangle, where the Baptist and Methodist churches are located.

School No. 3, frame building, similar to No. 1 in cost, salaries, etc.; largest number present during the year, 28; 23 males and 19 females attended 1 month or more; 1 girl under 6 years of age; average age of pupils, 10 years and 8 months; school maintained for 9 months, with an average daily attendance of 10, the average during September being 12.75, the highest for the school year. The teacher exhibited marked enthusiasm in his work, as Well as pride in the progress of his pupils. The school is on the north crossroad.

Allegany Reservation Schools

The 6 schools upon the Allegany reservation are similar, each costing the state $322.33. Indian contributions for fires, $6.25; salaries, $276.50; all other expenses, $52.08; repairs during the year, $26.22 for each school building.

School, No. 1, which had 2 lady teachers during the year, is at the fork of the road, west of the Allegany River, nearly opposite the old mission house, in a pagan district; estimated accommodations for 50; largest number present during the year, including some white children, 23; 4 males and 2 females, attended 1 month or more during the year; 1 male under 6 years of age, 3 males and 2 females between 6 and 18 years of age; average age of pupils, 11.33 years; average attendance during the year, 4; largest average attendance any month, 5, in October, 1890. One, who claims to be the only living Seneca of full blood, missed school only 22 times during the year.

School No. 2 has accommodations for 50; largest number present, 26; 18 males and 12 females attended 1 mouth or more during the year ; 2 of the females. Were under the age of 6 years; average ago of pupils, 10 years; average attendance during the year, 9.5; largest attendance any mouth, 16, in May 1890.

School No. 3 has accommodations for 50; largest number, present during the year, 40; 1 males and 9 females, all between the ages of 6ancl 18, attended 1 month or more during the year; average age, 10.33 years; average attendance, 13.66; largest average attendance any month, 15, in December. One was absent only 11 days in the year.

School No. 4 has accommodations for 45; largest number present during the year, 21; 16 males and 10 females attended 1 month or more; 2 females under 6 years of ago; average age, 9:5 years; average attendance during the year, 13.5, in December 1889. One attended school every clay, viz, 172 days during the year, and during 22 terms, or 7.33 years, mimed school but 1 day when well (and that at the request of his father) and 3 weeks when sick. Special schedule 60 (Allegany) is that of a family of the Plover clan. The 3 children attended 156, 157, and 158 out of a possible 172 days. The school is near the Presbyterian Church.

School No. 5 abandoned.

School No. 6 has accommodations for 50; largest number present, 23; 13 males and 11 females attended 1 month or more; 3 males and 4 females under the ago of 6; 10 males and 7 females between 6 and 18 years of age; average age, 8 years; average attendance, 13; – largest average attendance during any month, 14.5, for the mouth of June, 1890. This is the school at Carrollton; a strong pagan district; but a boy, age 11, attended school 163 out of a possible 166 days, and 2 other pagan children attended 159 and 160 days, respectively.

School No. 7 has accommodations for 45; located near Quaker bridge and Friends’ schoolhouse; largest number present dazing the year, 27; 12 males and 10 females attended 1 month or more during the year; 3 males and 2 females under the age of 6; 9 males and 2 females between 6 and 18 years of age; average age of pupils, 9 years; average attendance during the year, 8; largest attendance during 1 month, 10, in October, 1889.

Cattaraugus Reservation Schools

The 10 schools upon the Cattaraugus reservation are similar in design, cost, and accessories to those of Allegany, and with the same superintendent. He writes frankly that he “can not secure competent teachers at the rates authorized”. The result has been that young and immature persons from his own neighborhood have undertaken this work, some of them as their initial training in the school teacher’s profession. The best educated parents complain. The attendance fell off at the fall term, 1890, and the work of training the Indian youth is not wisely and smoothly developed. The teacher at Newtown, the most populous pagan center, is experienced.

School No. 1, the most western school, is near the town of Irving. Visitations by the teacher to parents and children when absence becomes noticeable, and original. Ways of entertaining the pupils, indicate the spirit which can make Indian schools successful and Indian parents sympathetic and supporting; and yet even this school proves the necessity of some method to induce more regular attendance. Accommodations are estimated for 50; highest attendance during the year, 21; 10 males and 12 females attended 1 month or more; under 6 years of age, 1 male and 1 female; between the ages of 6 and 18, 1 male and 1 female; average attendance during the year, 7.1; largest average attendance during any 1 month, 10.75, in September 1889; special attendance, 1 girl, 160 out of a possible 181 days;

School No. 2 has accommodations for 40; largest attendance any one time, 12; attended 1 month or more, 5 males and 3 females; under 6 years, 1 female; between the ages of 6 and 18, 5 males and 2 females; average age, 10 years; average attendance during the year, 6.66; largest average attendance during any 1 month, 8, in April 1890. This school is taught by a young man. Special attendance, 3 boys, 170, 170, and 163 out of a possible 171 days.

School No. 3 has accommodations for 50; largest attendance, 30; 16 males and 13 females attended. 1 month or more during the year; under 6 years of age, 1; between the ages of 6 and 18, 16 males acid females; average age of pupils, 10.5 years; average attendance during the year, 15; largest average attendance during any 1 month, 16, in May 1890; location nearly opposite the Presbyterian Church; special attendance, a girl, 158 out of a possible 178 clays.

School No. 4. The Thomas orphan asylum practically answers for this number.

School No. 5 has accommodations for 40; largest attendance during the year, 18; 10 males and 11 remake attended 1 month or more during the year; 1 male is under the age of 6, and 9 males and 11 females are between the ages of 6 and 18; average age, 10.33 years; average attendance during the year; largest average attendance any 1 month, 9.5; in September 1889. This school is central, near the Methodist Church and the courthouse, Special attendance, a boy, 154 out of a possible 178 days.

School No. 6 has accommodations for 40; largest number present at any one time, 25; 14 males and 13 females attended 1 month or more, all between the ages of 6 and 18; average age, 9.5 years; average attendance during the year, 10; largest average attendance during any 1 month, 12, in June 1890. This school is on the summit north from the courthouse, Special attendance, a boy, 150 out of a possible 167 days.

School No. 7 is situated in the strongly pagan district of Newtown, in the midst of a large school population. There are accommodations for 50 pupils, and the school is now in charge of an earnest and experienced teacher. Largest number present at any one time, 45; 28 males and 23 females attended. 1 mouth or more during the year, 3 males were under the age of 6; 25 males and 23 females between the ages of 6 and 18; average age, 9.33 years; average attendance during the year, 24.33; largest average attendance during any 1 month, 34, in December 1889; special attendance, 1 boy, 126 out of a possible 156 clays, and 1 boy, 73 days, a fall term.

School No. 8 has accommodations for 40; largest attendance at any one time, 40; 10 males and 7 females attended 1 month or more during the year; 1 male and 1 female are under 6 years of ago; 9 males and 6 females are between the ages of 6 and 18; average age, 9 years; average attendance during the year, 6.5; largest average attendance any 1 month, 12, in November 1889; location, on the “Four-mile level road” to Gowanda.

School No. 9 has accommodations for 40; largest attendance at any one time during the year, 20; 12 males and 10 females attended 1 month or more during the year; 2 females under the age of 6; 12 males and 10 females between the ages of 6 and 18; average age of pupils 9.5 years; average attendance during the year, 12.33; the largest average attendance during any one month was in September 1889; location, on the west road from Versailles to Gowanda.

School No. 10 has accommodations for 50; largest attendance during the year, 18; 11 males and 4 females attended 1 mouth or more during the year, all between the ages of 6 and 18, average age of pupils, 10.5 years; average attendance during the year 10; largest average attendance during any 1 month, 12.5, in March 1890; location, north from Versailles, on the west bank of Cattaraugus creek; special attendance, 2 pupils, 149 out of a possible 155 days.

School No. 11 has accommodations for 50; largest attendance during the year, 25; 12 males and 15 females attended. 1 month or more; 1 male is over 18 years of age; 2 males and. 2 females are under 6 years of age; 9 males and 13 females are between the ages of 6 and 18 years; average age, 9.66 years; average attendance during the year, 15.66; largest average attendance during any 1 month, 22.33, December 1889; location, on summit west of “One-mile strip”; special attendance, 4 pupils, the full fall term of 78 days.

Tuscarora Reservation Schools

School No. 1, western district, on the crossroad from Frank Mountpleasant’s to Captain C. Cusick’s final, on the mountain road, has accommodations for 35; largest attendance during the year, 32; attendance 1 month or more during the year, 31; males 19 and females 12; under 6 years of age, males 1, females 1; over 18 years of age, 2 males and 2 females; 20 males and 13, females between the ages of 6 and 18 years; average attendance during the year 13.33; largest average attendance during any 1 month, 19, in February 1890; salaries of teachers and employees, $2.52; all other expenses, $17.75; value of building, $287.

School No, 2, a boarding school building; accommodations, nominally 35; greatest number present at any one time, 28; attendance 1 month or more during the year, 43, 33 males and 10 females; under 6 years of age, 3 males and 2 females; over 18 years of ago, 2 males and 2 females; average age of pupils, 10 years; average attendance during the year, 14; largest average attendance any 1 month, 17, in February 1890; salaries, $252; all other expenses, $17.75. Prominent chiefs state that the mission buildings and the necessary assistance are available when the state of Now York is prepared to do its part.

The superintendent of public instruction for the state of New York, in successive annual reports, earnestly deplores the condition of the Indian schools, the irregular attendance, and the indifference or opposition of parents, and states that “this indifference is not chargeable to the character of the schools “. Many children do not attend school at all, and many are very irregular in their attendance after being entered on the school register.

Thomas Orphan Asylum

Thomas Orphan Asylum
Thomas Orphan Asylum

This institution, established in the year 1855 by Mr. Philip E. Thomas, of Baltimore, Maryland, and now maintained by the state of New York, is located, as indicated on the map, less than three-quarters of a mile west from the Seneca courthouse on the main road which leads through the Cattaraugus reservation to Irving. A productive farm, with buildings admirably arranged and suitably heated and ventilated, and with all the accessories of a good boarding school, also a well arranged hospital and cheerful home make this a true asylum for the orphan and destitute children of the Six Nations. During the census year 48 boys and 57 girls under the age of 16 enjoyed its instruction and care, with but 2 deaths from the number. The property returns for the year represent the value of farm, buildings, and all properties that make the institution complete as $46,747. The board of trustees is responsible for its general welfare. Elias Johnson, the Tuscarora historian, Nathaniel Kennedy, of Cattarangus, and David Jimerson, a Tonawanda Seneca, represent the Indians upon the executive board. The superintendent, Mr. J. H. Van Valkenburg, and his wife, after large experience at the state blind asylum, have demonstrated by their management and extension of this great charity the capacity of Indian children for the best development, which discriminating forethought and paternal care can realize. The necessary condition that these Indian children can only remain in the asylum until they are 16 removes them from its influence at the very time they are beginning to respond to excellent discipline, regular habits, and careful teaching. They consequently return to their people unfitted for the lives they must lead, and yet unable to sustain the fuller, nobler life of which they have caught a passing glimpse.

Regular hours for study, recreation, and work, with every possible guidance which affection, sympathy, and good judgment can devise, combine in behalf of the orphan inmates to develop the elements of a religious and industrious life. During the year 14 returned to parents or guardians, 2 were sent out to work, and 2 were adopted. Besides the day system of routine duty, the evenings are made cheerful by readings, talks, games, and music until a reasonable retiring hour, and the order, willing obedience, and obliging manners of both boys and girls are noteworthy. The girls, who learn to sew, manufactured wearing apparel during the year to the value of $2,515. In addition, they make fancy articles, which they are allowed to sell to visitors on their own account, while the boys are efficient upon the farm.

The Indian’s love for music is systematically developed by superintendent and matron, both being accomplished musicians. In addition to their music at home and their regular service of songs at the Presbyterian Church on the Sabbath, they are welcome attendants at many public occasions. Through the agency of the asylum 767 Indian children have been educated, and to say that a boy or girl is at the Thomas asylum is a proverbial assurance of a promising future. In reading, grammar, geography, and history, in deportment, penmanship, drawing, and in their sports, there is a visible pride and interest. The system establishes regular habits, industry, and zeal. The studies at the asylum during the year and the number of pupils in each branch are presented in the following statement of English studies:

Primary, Reading, 50; writing, 29; arithmetic, 36; United States history, 24.

Intermediate, Reading, 42; geography, 32; writing, 44; language lessons, 44; arithmetic, 24; physiology, 35.

Advanced, Reading, 35; spelling, 36; grammar, 29; civil government, 48; arithmetic, 30; geography, 32; United States history, 28; physiology, 46; writing, 36.

Recitation and declamation all pupils.

Music, Instrumental, 55; voice culture and special training, 7; intermediate chorus singing, 24; musical notation and singing, 80; advanced chorus singing, 20; primary chorus singing, 36; anthems and church music, 70.

Sunday school music all pupils.

There is an active band of hope in the school, and the atmosphere of the entire institution is that of a happy family.

School Work, Of The Friends, William Penn’s treaty with the Indians at Shackamaxon “on the 14th day of the 10th month, 1682″, laid the foundation for that confidence in the Society of Friends which prompted the great chief Cornplanter to write in 1791: “Brothers! we have too little wisdom among us, and we can not teach our children what we see their situation requires them to know. We wish them to be taught to read and write, and such other things as you teach your children, especially the love of peace “.

Sag-a-ree-sa (The Sword Carrier), a Tuscarora chief who was present when Timothy Pickering made the Canandaigua treaty of 1794, requested some Friends who accompanied the commissioner from Philadelphia to lave some of their people sent to New York as teachers. As secretary of state, Mr. Pickering afterward granted the request.  Three young men began work among the Stockbridge and Oneida Indians in 1796, and 4 visited the Seneca settlement of Cornplanter in 1798. The foundation thus laid was strengthened by the visit of a committee of Friend’s to all the Six Nations in 1865, and the Friends’ school, now in vigorous operation on the verge of the Allegany reservation, less than a mile from the station at Quaker bridge, on the Allegany River, is the mature fruit of that early conception. It comprises a farm and boarding school with an attendance of 40 pupils, soon to be increased to 45.

The course of instruction here, more advanced than at the state schools, coupled with the financial benefits enjoyed, is the cause, in part, of the abandonment of the school near the house of Philip Fatty, on the west bank of the Allegany, below West Salamanca, as indicated on the map.
During September 1890, a committee of Friends from Philadelphia visited the school and addressed the Indians in both council house and church.

Education And Schools At St. Regis

There are 5 state schools upon this reservation, under the personal supervision of the state superintendent of these schools. The last school building was erected at a cost of $500, and the aggregate value of the 5 buildings is about $1,400. The salaries of the teachers, all females, are $250 each, and the annual incidental expense of each school is $30. The schools are judiciously located, and the deportment and progress of the pupils are commendable. A new interest has been aroused, as on other reservations, by the various investigations of the conditions and necessities of the Six Nations.

School No. 1, on the St. Regis road, north from Hogansburg, shows the following record: largest attendance any one day, 31; number attending 1 month or more, 25, namely, 12 males and 13 females, all between the ages of 6 and 18; average age; 10 year’s; average attendance, 13; largest average attendance any single month, 18, in February. One boy and one girl did not miss a day.

School No. 2 is 3.33 miles from Hogansburg, on the direct road to Fort Covington. Largest attendance any one day, 32; number attending 1 month or more, 28, namely, 12 males and 16 females; under the age of 6, males 2, and females 1; between the ages of 6 and 18, males 11 and females 13; average age, 10 years; average attendance, 13; average attendance any single month, 17, in February. One boy attended every day and one girl lost but 1 day of the long term.

School No. 3 is nearly 2 miles from Hogansburg, on the direct road west to Messina Springs. Largest attendance any one day, 21; number attending 1 month or more, 24, namely, 11 males and 13 females, all between the ages of 6 and 18; average age, 10 years; average attendance, 15; largest average attendance any single mouth, 18, in February. One girl lost but 1 day.

School No. 4 is 2.25 miles northeast from Hogansburg, as indicated on the map. Largest attendance any one day, 25; number attending 1 month or more, namely, 13 males and 14 females, all between the ages of 6 and 18; average age, 10 years; average attendance, 15; largest average attendance any single month, 18, in February. Three girls and one boy showed exceptional attendance.

School No. 5 is 1.33 miles southwest from Hogansburg, on the new road leading west from the Helena road, at Frank Cook’s. Largest attendance any one day, 21; number attending 1 month or more, 26, namely, 14 males and 12 females, all between the ages of 6 and 18; average age, 10 years; average attendance, 14; largest average attendance any single month, 17, in February; exceptional attendance, 1 girl and 2 boys each lost but one day of the spring term.

The highest aggregate of attendance any single day in the 5 schools was 130. The number of those who attended 1 mouth or more daring the school year of 36 weeks was also 130, or about one-third of the 397 of school age, which in New York ranges from 5 to 21 years. The data given are in accordance with the census schedules.

The qualification as to reading and writing”, which was made in reporting upon the educational progress of the other nations of the Iroquois league, has even greater force among the St. Regis Indians. One adult read accurately a long newspaper article, upon the promise of half a dollar, but freely acknowledged that he did not understand the subject matter of the article. In penmanship the faculty of copying or drawing and taking mental pictures of characters as so many objectives becomes more delusive when the question is asked, “Can you write English?” As for penmanship, most adults who can sign their names do it after mechanical fashion. The Mohawk dialect of the Iroquois has but 11 letters, A, E, H, I, N, O, R, S, T, W. Striking metaphors and figures of speech, which catch the fancy, are in constant use, and to reach the minds of this people similar means must be employed; hence it is that the Methodist minister among the St. Regis Indians proposes that his granddaughter learn their language, as the best possible preparation for teaching, in English. The objection to Indian teachers is the difficulty of securing those who have thoroughly acquired the English. The St. Regis Indians who conduct ordinary conversation in English almost universally hesitate to translate for others when important matters are under consideration, although apparently competent to do so.  The white people do not sufficiently insist that Indiana who can speak some English should use it habitually. It is so much less trouble to have an interpreter. This people do not, as might be expected, understand French; neither do the Canadian St. Regis Indians. Contact with the Canadian St. Regis Indians, however social and tribal in its affinities and intercourse, retards, rather than quickens, the St. Regis Indians of New York in the acquisition of the English language. It is true with them, as with the other nations, that this is a prime necessity in their upward progress.

Six Nations Language

At all times and places where the use of English is not absolutely indispensable the Indian language is used, but this is not for the purpose of concealing their meaning. The native courtesy toward strangers, offhand kindliness of manner and good address of this people prevent breaches of companionship; and yet, even among the nations themselves, the acquirement by one nation of the language of another is rare. Among the Tuscaroras, however mellifluous and musical their dialect, the lips are not used in speaking, and the labials not being pronounced, many intelligent Tuscaroras are unable to converse freely with those of other nations. The constant dependence upon interpreters is a drawback, and represses the desire to understand English. it keeps down the comprehension of ideas, which can not find expression through the Indian vocabulary, and it is simply impossible for the Indian either to appreciate his condition and needs or make substantial progress until he is compelled by necessity to make habitual use of English. The use of an interpreter seems generally to be necessary at the church services to impress a religious sentiment; but this perfunctory deliverance is unsatisfactory. The minister can not know how far he touches both understanding and heart, nor, without knowledge of the Indian language, can he realize the best results.

 



MLA Source Citation:

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 31 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/education-schools-and-language-on-the-six-nations-reservations.htm - Last updated on Jun 28th, 2013


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