Indian Education

Search Fold3 for your
Native American Records

The Indians of North America had their own systems of education, through which the young were instructed in their coming labors and obligations, embracing not only the whole round of economic pursuits hunting, fishing, handicraft, agriculture, and household work but speech, fine art, customs, etiquette, social obligations, and tribal lore. By unconscious absorption and by constant inculcation the boy and girl became the accomplished man and woman. Motives of pride or shame, the stimulus of flattery or disparagement, wrought constantly upon the child, male or female, who was the charge, not of the parents and grandparents alone but of the whole tribe (Heckewelder). Loskiel (p. 139) says the Iroquois are particularly attentive to the education of the young people for the future government of the state, and for this purpose admit a boy, generally the nephew of the principal chief, to the council and solemn feast following it.

The Eskimo were most careful in teaching their girls and boys, setting them difficult problems in canoeing, sledding, and hunting, showing them how to solve them, and asking boys how they would meet a given emergency (see Child life). Every where there was the closest association, for education, of parents with children, who learned the names and uses of things in nature. At a tender age they played at serious business, girls attending to household duties, boys following men s pursuits. Children were furnished with appropriate toys; they became little basket makers, weavers, potters, water carriers, cooks, archers, stone workers, watchers of crops and flocks, the range of instruction being limited only by tribal custom. Personal responsibilities were laid on them, and they were stimulated by the tribal law of personal property, which was inviolable. Among the Pueblos cult images and paraphernalia were their playthings, and they early joined the fraternities, looking forward to social du ties and initiation. The Apache boy had for pedagogues his father and grandfather, who began early to teach him counting, to run on level ground, then up and down hill, to break branches from trees, to jump into cold water, and to race, the whole training tending to make him skilful, strong, and fearless. The girl was trained in part by her mother, but chiefly by the grandmother, the discipline beginning as soon as the child could control her movements, but never becoming regular or severe. It consisted in rising early, carrying water, helping about the home, cooking, and minding children. At 6 the little girl took her first lessons in basketry with yucca leaves. Later on decorated baskets, saddle-bags, bead work, and dress were her care.

On the coming of the whites a new era of secular education, designed and undersigned, began. All the natives, young and old, were pupils, and all the whites who came in contact with them were instructors, whether purposely or through the influence of their example and patronage. The undersigned instruction can not be measured, but its effect was pro found. The Indian passed at once into the iron age; the stone period, except in ceremony, was moribund. So radical was the change in the eastern tribes that it is difficult now to illustrate their true life in museum collections.

An account of the designed instruction would embrace all attempts to change manners, customs, and motives, to teach reading and writing in the foreign tongue, to acquaint the Indians with new arts and industries, and to impress or force upon them the social organization of their conquerors. The history of this systematic instruction divides itself into the period of

  1. discovery and exploration
  2. colonization and settlement
  3. Colonial and Revolutionary times,
  4. the growth of the national policy, and
  5. the present system.

Parts of the area here considered were discovered and explored by several European nations at dates wide apart. All of them aroused the same wonder at first view, traded their manufactures for Indian products, smoked the pipe of peace, and opened friendly relations. The Norwegians began their acculturation of Greenland in the year 1000. The Spanish pioneers were Ponce de Leon, Narvaez, Cabeza de Vaca, Marcos de Niza, De Soto, Coronado, Cabrillo, and many others. The French appeared in Canada and in the Mississippi valley, and were followed by the English in Virginia and in New England, the Dutch in New York, the Swedes in New Jersey, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Russians in Alaska. Instruction, designed and undersigned, immediately ensued, teaching the Indians many foreign industrial processes, the bettering of their own, and the adoption of firearms, and metal tools and utensils. Domestic animals (horses, donkeys, cattle, sheep, goats, poultry) and many vegetables found congenial environment. It was through these and other practical lessons that the missionaries and teachers of the early days, who came to Christianize young Indians and bestow on them an education, were more successful instructors than they knew. By the subtle process of suggestion, the inevitable action of mind upon mind, the Indians received incalculable training in all arts and the fashion of living. Failures to accomplish the most cherished object of the missionaries grew 7 out of the great distance which separated the two races, and of the contrary influences of many of the whites who were first on the spot, not from lack of zeal or ability. The Roman Catholic clergy were at first the most efficient agents of direct instruction; besides carrying on their proper missionary work they exerted themselves to mitigate the harsh treatment visited on the Indian. In the 16th century the expedition of Narvaez to Florida was accompanied by Franciscans under Padre Juan Juarez, and the appearance of Cabeza de Vaca in Mexico prompted Fray Marcos de Niza s journey to the N. as far as Zuñi, and of the expedition of Coronado, who left Fray Juan de Padilla and a lay brother in Quivira, on the Kansas plains, as well as a friar and a lay brother at Tiguex and Pecos, respectively, all destined to be killed by the natives. The subsequent history of the S. W. records a series of disasters to the immediate undertakings, but permanent success in practical education.

In 1567 the agricultural education of Indians was tried in Florida by the Jesuit Fray Rogel, who selected lands, pro cured agricultural implements, and built commodious houses (Shea).

Early in the 17th century Franciscan missions were established among the Apalachee and neighboring tribes, after ward to be abandoned, but forming the first link in the chain of causes which has brought these Indians through their minority under guardianship to mature self-dependence. Concentration for practical instruction was established in California by the Franciscans (see California, Indians of). The results achieved by the missions in the S. W. were chiefly practical and social. Domestic animals, with the art of domestication and industries de pending on their products, were permanently acquired. Foreign plants, including wheat, peaches, and grapes, w r ere introduced, gunpowder was adopted in place of the bow, and new practices and customs, good and bad, came into vogue. The early French missions in North America were among

  1. the Abnaki in Maine,
  2. the Huron in Ontario, Michigan, and Ohio,
  3. the Iroquois in New York,
  4. the Ottawa in Wisconsin and Michigan,
  5. the Illinois in the middle W., and
  6. the tribes of Louisiana. Bishop Laval founded a school at Quebec for French and Indian youth, Father de Smet planted the first Catholic mission among the Salish tribes, and Canadian priests visited the natives on Puget sd. and along the coast of Washington.

One of the objects in colonizing Virginia, mentioned in the charter of 1606 and repeated in that of 1621, was to bring the infidels and savages to human civility and a settled and quiet government (Neill) . Henri co College was founded in 1618. The council of Jamestown in 1619 voted to educate Indian children in religion, a civil course of life, and in some useful trade. George Thorpe, superintendent of education at Henrico, gave a cheering account of his labors in 1621. Many youths were taken to England to be educated. William and Mary College was founded in 1691, and special provisions were made in the charter of Virginia for the instruction of Indians (Hist. College of William and Mary, 1874). Brasserton manor was purchased through the charity of Robert Boyle, the yearly rents and profits being devoted to a boarding-school foundation in William and Mary College. In Maryland no schools were founded, but the settlers and Indians ex changed knowledge of a practical kind. The interesting chapter of Indian education in New England includes, during the 17th century, the offering of their children for instruction, the translation of the Bible ( 1646-90) into their language by Eliot ( see Eliot Bible], the founding of Natick, the appointment of a superintendent of Indians (Daniel Gookin, 1656-86 ) , and the pro vision for Indian youth in Harvard. The spirit and methods of instruction in the 18th century are revealed in the adoption of Indian children by the colonists ( Samson Occum, for example), the founding of Moor’s charity school, Bishop Berkeley’s gift to Yale, the labors of Eleazer Wheelock (1729), and the founding of Dartmouth College in 1754 (see Fletcher, Ind. Education and Civilization, 1888). In New York and other northern states large sums of money were appropriated for the instruction of Indians, and in Princeton College special provisions were made for their education.

The Moravians, models of thrift and good will, had in their hearts wherever they went the welfare of the aborigines as a private and public burden.

Between 1741 and 1761 began, under Vitus Bering and his successors, the series of lessons given for the acculturation of the Aleut, Eskimo, and Indians of Alaska. . Schools were formally opened in Kodiak in 1794, and a little later in Sitka. This chapter in education includes the Russian Company s schools, as well as military, Government, and church schools. Pupils were taught the Russian and English languages, geography, history, arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, and navigation. Industrial training was compulsory in many cases. Dall ( Alaska, 1870) speaks of the great aptness of the Aleuts in receiving instruction. In all areas the voyageur, the trapper, the trader, the missionary, the settler, the school-teacher, and Government authorities w T ere partners in education. The contact, whenever it took place, had its effect in a generation or two. The making of treaties with the Indians afforded an object lesson in practical affairs. Old things passed away whose nature and very existence and structure can be proved now only by impressions on ancient pottery or remains in caverns and graves. The two fold education embraced new dietaries, utensils, and modes of preparing and eating food; new materials and fashions in dress and implements for making clothing; new or modified habitations and their appurtenances and furniture; new productive industries and new methods of quarrying and mining, woodcraft, hunting, trapping, and fishing; the introduction of gunpowder, domestic animals, and foreign handicrafts; the adoption of calendars and clocks, and the habit of steady employment for wages; new social institutions, manners, customs, and fashions, not always for the better; foreign words and jargons for new ideas and activities; new esthetic ideas; changes in the clan and tribal life, and accessions to native beliefs and forms of worship borrowed from the conquerors.

In the Canadian colonies little was done for secular and industrial education by the provincial governments prior to confederation. The Roman Catholic missions inherited from the French, Anglican missions sent from the mother country, the New England Company s missions among the Six Nations and Mohawk, and Methodist schools founded by Lord Elgin and others, as well as those managed by Presbyterians, Baptists, and Congregationalists, all combined common school instruction and training in the practical arts with their special work (see Missions}. After the confederation (1867) the subject was taken up systematically and con tract schools were established and put into the hands of the Christian denominations. In the older provinces agriculture and other industries had largely taken the place of primitive arts. After the admission of British Columbia, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territory into the Dominion, steps were taken to establish systematic training in those provinces. In 1904 there were 24 industrial, 46 boarding, and 228 day schools in operation. Day schools among the tribes aim to secure the cooperation of parents; the boarding schools especially cultivate industrial training for various bread-winning trades; normal schools and girls homes have been established to teach self-support under new conditions. Improvement in dwellings has developed a stronger attachment to home, as well as bettered health and raised the moral tone, for when houses are furnished with stoves, beds, tables, chairs, musical instruments, and sewing machines, the tastes of the occupants are elevated and other thoughts stimulated. Indians become individual owners of farms and of flocks and herds and sell the produce; they par take of the benefits of commerce and transportation and acquire thrift. Corn-petition in fairs and exhibitions stimulates proficiency in both the old and the new activities. The purpose of the Canadian government has been to encourage the Indians to emerge from a condition of tutelage and continue voluntarily what they have learned under close supervision. The schools discourage premature marriages and educate the young prospective mothers. Education has made the aborigines law-respecting, prosperous, and contented. Far from being a menace to or a burden upon the commonwealth, they contribute in many ways to its welfare. The able-bodied in the mixed farming districts have become practically self-supporting (Pedley in Can. Ind. Aff. for 1904).

After the establishment of the United States government the following Christian bodies either instituted secular day and boarding schools among the Indians or continued those already in existence, and these schools have borne a large part in Indian education: Roman Catholic and Moravians from colonial times; Friends (Orthodox), 1795; Baptist, 1807; American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1810; Episcopal, 1815; Methodist Episcopal, 1816; Presbyterian (North), 1833; Old School Presbyterians, 1837; Methodist Episcopal (South), 1844; Congregational American Missionary Association, 1846; Reformed Dutch, 1857; Presbyterian (South), 1857; Friends (Hicksite), 1869; United Presbyterian, 1869; Unitarian, 1886. Miss Alice C. Fletcher affirms that the missionary labors among the Indians have been as largely educational as religious. Until 1870 all Government aid for this object passed through the hands of the missionaries.

On July 12, 1775, a committee on Indian affairs was appointed in the Continental Congress, with Gen. Schuyler as chairman, and in the following year a standing committee was created. Money was voted to support Indian students at Dartmouth and Princeton colleges. After the War Department was created, in 1789, Indian affairs were left in the hands of its Secretary until 1849, when the Department of the Interior was established and the Indian Bureau was transferred thereto. Gen. Knox, Washington’s Secretary of War, urged industrial education, and the President was of the same mind. In his message of 1801 President Adams noted the success of continued efforts to introduce among the Indians the implements and practices of husbandry and the household arts.

The first petition of an Indian for schools among his tribe was made by David Folsom, a Choctaw, in 1816. The Ottawa, in their treaty (1817) and in their address to President Monroe (1822), stipulated for industrial and literary education. In 1819 a first appropriation of 10,000 was made by Congress for Indian education, the superintendents and agents to be nominated by the President. In 1823 there were 21 schools receiving Government aid, and the number was increased to 38 in 1825. The first contract school was established on the Tulalip res., Wash. , in 1869, but it was not until 1 873 that Government schools proper were provided. In the beginning there were only day schools, later boarding schools on the reservations, and finally boarding schools remote from them. The training in all these schools was designed to bring the Indians nearer to civilized life, with a view to ultimate citizenship by enabling them to assimilate the speech, industrial life, family organization, social manners and customs, civil government, knowledge, modes of thinking, and ethical standards of the whites. The change to agriculture and sedentary industries had a profound effect in developing a sense of continuous responsibility. A school was established at Carlisle, Pa., in 1879, by Capt. R. H. Pratt, U. S. A. , for the purpose of educating Indian boys and girls by separating them from their tribal life so as to prepare them to live and labor in contact with white people (see Carlisle School). To this end they are taught in the school as far as the high-school grade, and instruction is given in mechanical trades and domestic work. In order to facilitate association with the white population the “outing system” was adopted, by which pupils are permitted to go out during vacations to earn money. Boys and girls are also placed in families where they may work for their board, and perhaps more, and attend school. Thus the young Indians are trained in home life and associate with white children. Contract schools were abandoned June 30, 1900; the religious societies have since taken care of their own schools, and the appropriation for Indian education is applied under the law entirely to Government schools. About 100 students receive higher instruction in Hampton Institute. One of the latest experiments is that of Rev. Sheldon Jackson in connection with the introduction of domesticated reindeer into Alaska. These are allotted to mission and other schools, and instruction in the care and use of them is a part of the training.

The present scheme of education adopted by the Indian Office is to teach the pupils English, arithmetic, geography, and United States history, and also to train them in farming and the care of stock and in trades, as well as gymnastics. This requires the maintenance of day, boarding, and training schools, 253 now in all, with 2,300 employees, involving an annual expenditure of nearly $5,000,000. Some of these Indian schools are models (see Chilocco Indian Industrial School). Allotment of land has been the means of sending Indian children to district schools with white children. Indian teachers are being employed and parents are coming to be interested.

While on some reservations there are still Indian children who never saw a school, the great mass have ceased to be indifferent. The results of a century s efforts are immeasurable. Indians now take their places beside whites in many of the industrial pursuits and in the higher walks as well. The best evidence that the Indian is capable of civilization is the list of those who have succeeded. The Government has been stimulated, advised, and aided all along by associations of benevolent men and women who have freely given their time and means for the education and uplifting of the Indians, with various motives, some seeking the preservation of tribal, life, arts, and customs, some their extinction. See Carlisle School, Chilocco Indian Industrial School, Dutch influence, English influence, French influence, Spanish influence, etc., Govern mental policy, Missions.

In addition to the works cited, see Reps. Ind. Aff., especially for 1898 and subsequent years; Bureau of Education Reports for 1870, 339-354; 1871, 402-411; 1872, 405-418; 1873, 469-480; 1874, 506-516; 1875, 519-528; 1878, 281-286; 1879, 278-280; 1880, 372-376; 1886, app. 8 and 657-660; 1888, 999-1004; 1897, 1520-1522; also circulars 3, 1883, 58-73; 4, 34-43; Bulletin 1 of the New Orleans Exposition, 541-544 and 746-754, 1889; Archaeologia Americana, 1820-60; Bacon, Laws of Md., 1765; Camden Soc. Publications, i-cix, 1838-72; Canadian Ind. Aff. Reps.; Catesby, Nat. Hist. Carolina, ii, xii, 1743; Eastman, Indian Boyhood, 1902; Doc. Hist. N. Y., i-iv, 1849-51; Fletcher, Indian Education and Civilization, 1888; Hailmann, Education of the Indian, 1904; Hall, Adolescence, 1904; Heckewelder, Narr. of the Mission of the United Brethren, 1820; Jenks, Childhood of Ji-shib, 1900; Hist. College of William and Mary, 1660-1874; La Flesche, The Middle Five. 1900; Loskiel, Hist, of the Mission of the United Brethren, 1794; Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., i-x, 1792-1809; Neill, Hist. Va. Co., 1869; Parkman, Old Regime in Canada; Pratt, Reps, on Carlisle School in An. Rep. Commr. Ind. Aff., especially 20th and 24th; Rawson et al., Rep. of Commissioners on Indian Education in 1844 (Jour. Leg. Assemb. Prov. of Can., vi, 1847) ; Shea, Catholic Missions, 1855; Smet (1) Oregon Miss., 1845, (2) New Indian Sketches, 1865, (3) Western Missions and Missionaries, 1863; Spencer, Education of the Pueblo Child, 1899; Spotswood, Off. Letters (1710-22), Va. Hist. Soc., i-n, 1882-85; Stevenson, Religious Life of the Zuni Child, 1887; Stith, Hist. Va., repr. 1865. (O. T. M.)



MLA Source Citation:

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 30 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/indian-education.htm - Last updated on Jul 18th, 2012


Categories:


Contribute to the Conversation!

Our "rules" are simple. Keep the conversation on subject and mind your manners! If this is your first time posting, we do moderate comments before we let them appear... so give us a while to get to them. Once we get to know you here, we'll remove that requirement.

One Response to “Indian Education”

    1. boderah1
      5:07 pm on January 10th, 2014

    Why is it that you never hear anything about the education of Native Americans in the southern states?

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Newsletter Signup

We currently provide two newsletters. Why not take both for a run?

Genealogy Update: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new, or significantly updated, collection or database on our website.

Circle of Nations: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new (or significantly updated) Native American collection or database on our website.

Once you've clicked on the Subscribe button above you'll receive an email from us requesting confirmation. You must confirm the email before you will be able to receive any newsletter.