Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature


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As Leslie D. In fact, one of the most important traditions that extends through present times is the storytelling event Hannah 2. By sharing the knowledge and stories that are inherent to the culture with the younger generations, the elders are keeping the culture alive and ensuring that it will not fade away, at least in their lifetime. Since many of these stories have not been recorded via writing, without the transmission of these stories via spoken word, they would fall into oblivion, taking with them another piece of a culture that has already lost so much.

Because much of the modern Western world relies primarily on written word to commemorate history while Native American traditions preserve their history via oral storytelling, Native Americans are often misunderstood. These endeavors on the part of the youth serve as evidence that survivance, which is a large part of the reason behind much of the Native American rhetoric, has been successful and will continue to be as long as the youth desire to maintain and uphold these aspects of their valuable culture and tradition. Although the oral tradition is vital in the passing on of stories, both cultural and historical, the written word has also proven to be especially important to the Cherokee.

Despite these massive challenges, with the help of federal courts and other Native American activists, the newspaper managed to stave off Cherokee removal for an additional eight years. By creating not only a newspaper that was specifically for the Cherokee people, but also one with such vivid imagery that connected to the tribe in a symbolic manner, a niche is created for the Cherokee tribe, which they had been struggling for since Europeans began infiltrating their lands.

The importance of this newspaper, and subsequently Native American rhetoric as a genre, is underscored by the achievements the Cherokee Phoenix attained. Although straightforward activism and scholarly writing is imperative, less formal avenues are playing an enormous role in the survivance of Native Americans as a general population in the modern day.

For example, the stand-up comedy arena has proven especially invaluable for Native Americans. They are able to use humor to relate to a typically majority-White audience where a connection might otherwise be lacking. Morris continues her piece, relaying a few of the methods used by American Indian comedians, stating that. Native American stand-up comedians construct epideictic performances with concrete and personal stories, active voice, and repetition of ideas, bodily and facial gestures, and a dynamic revision response to each audience. Through the use of these methods, American Indian comedians can create a particularly meaningful yet humorous piece.

Because much of the humor derived from Native American comedy is self-deprecation and incorporates some of the stories built on the oral tradition, the discourse evolves past the pure entertainment into underlying tones of survivance rhetoric Morris Due to the turbulent past between the White population and the American Indians, Native American comedians must rely on these forms of self-deprecation and other general methods of comedic relief to address difficult issues such as genocide and racism.

This in turn brings light to the subject and how the modern Native American population still deals with these aftereffects. Due to the covert manner in which these topics are introduced, the White audience can be brought into the discussion without feeling hostile. On the other hand, some these concepts of self-deprecation can only be appreciated by a mostly-Native American audience. Because the White audience has never had to deal with the issue of widespread alcoholism among the Native American population firsthand, their ability to fully grasp the joke, or even the humor in it, is impeded.


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Thus, although comedy is used by Native Americans as a rhetorical tool of survivance, it can also be argued that it is a modern tool for oral tradition, albeit a dark one. Alexie based much of the work on his own experiences a young adult. By discussing topics with which he dealt, he can effectively address the obstacles Native American youths face, such as life on a reservation, alcoholism, poverty, and bullying. As previously discussed, American Indians desire to be rhetorically sovereign, which the use of comedy ultimately makes the argument for, though not necessarily in an overt manner.

It creates these arguments subtly, infusing the ideas and urgings into their comedic discourse that the mainstream culture often subconsciously absorbs. By using a popular medium in modern culture, Native Americans are able to once again reach across the cultural lines and relate to their audience since the White population in general refuses to make the step themselves. In order to make themselves seem civilized and modern, they have historically had to make this leap so their White audience, which is the overwhelming majority, will be willing to accept the Native Americans as a people as well as their culture, and ultimately relate to their issues.

By forming an alliance with the majority, Native Americans from all tribes can have their voices heard on a more widespread platform. Despite the progress made for other minorities in the modern world, Native Americans and their issues are still severely ignored; thus, forging a relationship of some sort with the majority is still imperative for other cultures to have their voices heard. For Native Americans, specifically the Cherokee, rhetoric is not only a matter of the survival of their culture and a resistance to being overtaken and downtrodden by the dominant culture over time; their oral traditions as well as modern uses of rhetoric, such as stand-up comedy, are also vital to their sense of identity in that they allow a modern audience to gain knowledge of their culture.

Despite superficial appearances, their use of rhetoric is far more than simple communication or the art of speaking well: they are using rhetoric as a tool for persuasion in order to salvage as much of their culture as possible after the prolonged reign of terror over their way of life. This use for rhetoric is arguably more important than simply the art of speaking well, as rhetoric has been defined historically. Like any other rhetorician, American Indian rhetoricians use various genres to convey their point, such as speeches, oral storytelling, and stand-up comedy, as well as writing, including books and newspapers, among countless others.

Through them, Native Americans are able to convey their cultural identity. Employing a broad array of media further assists in the survivance of their culture and traditions the driving force behind much of American Indian rhetoric and encourages further learning of traditions that have been central to maintaining a sense of identity for a people who are all-too-often overlooked in the mainstream culture. However, if America is to progress further, the acknowledgement and inclusion of Native American culture and histories are imperative to create an adequate anthology of American history; without it, only a mismatched, incomplete version is available.

Those children who arrived at Carlisle able to speak some English were used by school officials as translators. They also sometimes took advantage of the children's traditional respect for their elders to get them to inform on their peers' misbehaviors. This was consistent with accepted practice in the large families of the time, where older children were often required to care for and discipline their younger siblings. School discipline was strict and consistent, according to the military tradition, with students facing 'courts-martial' for serious cases.

Elaine Goodale Eastman , who had supervised Indian education in the West, wrote of Carlisle that organizing Indian boys into squads and companies appealed to their warrior traditions, and that typically they complied because they wanted to earn officers' ranks, recognition, and privileges. She also observed that there was 'genuine affection' between the Captain and the students. Children who could not adjust at Carlisle eventually returned to their families and homes.

Some ran away because of being homesick and unhappy. Several years after one young man ran away, he approached Pratt in the lobby of a New York hotel. He explained that he had found himself a good job, was working hard and had saved some money. In November , Pratt was ordered by the War Department to report to the Secretary of the Interior for 'Indian education' duty, then to proceed to Dakota Territory and recruit Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota students for the new school.

These tribes were selected on the principle that the Government should take "the most pains with those who resisted the United States the most". Pratt protested that he was not familiar with the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota, and they were in a hostile attitude toward the US Government. But the War Department was insistent that Pratt go to Red Cloud Oglala and Spotted Tail Sicangu , important chiefs, because some military strategists believed their children would be hostages for the good behavior of their people. Spotted Tail, you are a remarkable man.

But Spotted Tail, you cannot read or write. You claim that the government has tricked your people and placed the lines of your reservation a long way inside of where it was agreed that they should be. If anything happened when the paper was being made up that changed its order, if you had been educated and could read and write, you could have known about it and refused to put your name on it.

Do you intend to let your children remain in the same condition of ignorance in which you have lived, which will compel them always to meet the whiter man at a great disadvantage through an interpreter, as you have to do? They wanted their children to learn English, trade skills, and Euro-American customs.

But it was their only chance for a future. He believed that the Natives were disadvantaged by being unable to speak and write English and that if they had the knowledge, they might have been able to protect themselves. His father celebrated his son's brave act by inviting his friends to a gathering and gave away seven horses and all the goods in his dry goods store. He demonstrated what the students had learned and persuaded parents to send their children to Carlisle by his appearance, language and skills; however, many children died from infectious diseases in boarding schools and parents were fearful to let them go.

Moreover, many parents were treated unfairly and had not been notified until after the children died and were buried. Unscrupulous Indian agents failed to mail letters from Carlisle to the parents, until the parents came into the agency for something. While many parents were proud of Luther, they were afraid to send their children away, fearing they would never see them again. Consent to send students to Carlisle was often gained with concessions, such as the promise to allow tribal leaders inspect the school soon after it opened.

The first group of inspectors, some 40 Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota chiefs representing nine Missouri River agencies, visited Carlisle in June Others tribal leaders followed. Before tribal delegations returned home, they usually spent a few days in Washington where they received the plaudits of government officials for allowing their children to participate in the Carlisle experiment. Oglala Lakota Chief American Horse was one of the earliest advocates of 'western' Euro-immigrant education for Native Americans [ citation needed ].

While recruiting at Pine Ridge Reservation , Captain Pratt met strong opposition from Red Cloud, who distrusted white education yet had no school-age children himself. American Horse "took a lively interest" in what he had to say. He was a tribal leader and head of a large household with at least ten children. He was a sophisticated man [ citation needed ] and believed that his children would have to deal with whites, and perhaps live with them, whether they liked it or not.

Of special interest...

He decided to send two sons and a daughter for the first class at Carlisle. Pratt was so successful in his correspondence and methods that many Western chiefs, suffering from cold and hunger on their reservations, begged him to bring more children East. The chiefs also wrote to Washington with a request to educate more of their children. The institution and the school were photographed during the school's existence by approximately a dozen professional photographers.

Pratt, in an effort to convince doubters of his beliefs, hired photographers to present this evidence. Before and after "contrast" photos were sent to officials in Washington, friends of the new school, and back to reservations to recruit new students. The minimum age for students was fourteen, and all students were required to be at least one-fourth Indian.

The Carlisle term was five years, and the consent forms which the parents signed before the agent so stated. Pratt refused to return pupils earlier unless they were ill, unsuitable mentally or a menace to others. Between and , Carlisle issued thirty to forty-five degrees a year. In , a survey of Carlisle graduates showed that had entered government service, and 47 were employed off the reservations.

Senators, Indian commissioners, secretaries of the Interior, college presidents and noted clergymen were accustomed to presenting the diplomas or address the graduating class upon these occasions. The gymnasium held 3, persons and was generally filled with an audience of townspeople and distinguished visitors showing their support for aspiring Carlisle students. In , Carlisle, Pennsylvania , was a thriving town as a borough and county seat of Cumberland County , west of the Susquehanna River , with a population of 6, people. The shoe factory in town employed over residents.

There were two railroads, three banks and ten hotels in Carlisle by the time Pratt established his school. By the late 19th Century, there were 1, "colored residents" in Carlisle. Carlisle boasted a low unemployment rate and a high literacy rate at the time of the census. It was considered a good location, as it was not in a big city. It was not so far West that the students would be able to run away back to their families.

The historic Carlisle Barracks established , afterwards site of the U. Army War College , [], and U. Army Heritage and Education Center , [] were vacant and available for use. The military site was less than two miles from an already well established educational institution, Dickinson College founded , chartered When the first Indian School students arrived in Carlisle on October 6, , they were in tribal dress.

The older Indian boys sang songs aloud in order to keep their spirits up and remain courageous, even though they were frightened. Led by the Indian School Band, the Carlisle Indians paraded in their nightshirts down the streets of Carlisle and on to the school on the edge of town. Carlisle was also home to Dickinson College , less than two miles from the Carlisle Indian School, America's 16th oldest college. It was Mrs. Pratt who had initiated the contact between the Indian School and Dickinson.

Upon Pratt's absence one Sunday, Mrs. Pratt wrote to President McCauley and requested his aid as a minister which he graciously accepted. The relationship did not stop there with Richard Pratt noting that, "from that time forward Dr.

Cheaper Than Bullets: American Indian Boarding Schools and

McCauley became an advisor and most valued friend to the school. McCauley helped Pratt to develop a Board of Trustees and a Board of Visitors composed of different heads of leading national educational institutions and wealthy donors. Dickinson College professors served as chaplains and special faculty to the Indian School, [44] and college students volunteered services, observed teaching methods and participated in events.

Exendine , Ernest Robitaille , Hastings M. Robertson , Victor M. Kelley, and William J. In , Dr. George Edward Reed assumed the position of President of Dickinson College and continued the close relationship between the Indian School and Dickinson College through Pratt's departure in Reed told an audience at the Indian School that "we who live in Carlisle, who come in constant contact with the Indian School, and who know of its work, have occasion to be agreeably surprised with the advance we are able to see.

Charles Francis Himes was a professor of natural science at Dickinson College for three decades and instrumental in expanding the science curriculum. Professor Hines took an interest in the Carlisle Indian School and his notable lectures on electricity "Why Does It Burn" , "Lightning" and "Gunpowder" received a favorable reaction from parents and students. Himes also promoted Carlisle's success in national academic circles.

Luther Standing Bear recalled that one day an astronomer came to Carlisle and gave a talk. We did not believe it. When the moon eclipsed, we readily believed our teacher about geography and astronomy. In addition to academic contact, the two institutes had contact in the public venue as well.

The best known instances include the regular defeats of Dickinson College by the Carlisle Indian School football team and other athletic competitions. Carlisle curricula included subjects such as English, math, history, drawing and composition. Students also learned trade and work skills such as farming and manufacturing. Older students used their skills to help build new classrooms and dormitories. Carlisle students produced a variety of weekly and monthly newspapers and other publications that were considered part of their "industrial training," or preparing for work in the larger economy.

Marianne Moore was a teacher at Carlisle before she became one of America's leading poets. Music was a part of the program, and many students studied classical instruments. The Carlisle Indian Band earned an international reputation.

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Modern American Poetry

Native American teachers eventually joined the faculty, such as Ho-Chunk artist Angel DeCora , taught students about Native American art and heritage and fought harsh assimilation methods. Students were instructed in Christianity and expected to attend a local church, but had their choice among those in town. Carlisle students were required to attend a daily service and two services on Sundays. Students were expected to participate in various extracurricular activities.

Students lived in tents and picked berries, hunted and fished. Those who remained at school were sent to the mountains for a vacation trip. I was among the number. When we reached our camping place, we pitched out tents like soldiers all in a row. Captain Pratt brought along a lot of feathers and some sinew, and we made bows and arrows. Many white people came to visit the Indian camp, and seeing us shooting with the bow and arrow, they would put nickels and dimes in a slot of wood and set them up for us to shoot at. If we knocked the money from the stick, it was ours. We enjoyed this sport very much, as it brought a real home thrill to us.

The Indian club or Pelhwan Meel is an exercise equipment tool of Persian origin introduced from India.. The Carlisle Summer Outing Program arranged for students to work in homes as domestic servants or in farms or businesses during the summer. The program won praise from reformers and administrators alike and helped increase the public's faith that Indians could be educated and assimilated. The program gave students opportunities to interact and live in the white world and found jobs for students during the summer months with middle-class farm families where they earned their first wages.

Students were required to write home at least every month, and as often as they chose. Nearly all the students lovingly inquired after absent brothers and sisters, and many sent money home ten or twenty dollars of their own earnings. Maggie had difficulty adjusting to the demands of her new lifestyle at Carlisle, and once slapped Miss Hyde, the matron, when Hyde insisted that Maggie make her bed every day and keep her room clean.

Instead of retaliating, Miss Hyde stood her ground and Maggie acquiesced. After her arrival to her country home, Maggie wrote a letter to Pratt. I have been here two weeks and I have not bathed. These folks have no bath place. Your school daughter, Maggie Stands Looking. The Outing Program continued throughout the Carlisle's history, and of the thousands who attended Carlisle for the first twenty-four years, a least half participated in the program.

Wanamaker's was the first department store in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania , and one of the first department stores in the United States. Luther was told by Pratt: "My boy you are going away from us to work for this school. Go and do your best. The majority of white people think the Indian is a lazy good-for-nothing. They think he can neither work nor learn anything; that he is very dirty. Now you are going to prove that the red man can learn and work as well as the white man. If John Wanamaker gives you the job of blacking his shoes, see that you make them shine. Then he will give you a better job.

If you are put into the office to clean, don't forget to sweep up under the chairs and in the corners. If you do this well, he will give you better work to do.

Indian Boarding Schools: Selected full-text books and articles

Luther was asked to come to the stage, and Wanamaker told the students that Luther had been promoted from one department to another every month getting better work and better money and in spite of the fact that he employed over one thousand people, he never promoted anyone as rapidly as Luther. Coach Pop Warner led a highly successful football team and athletic program at the Carlisle School, and went on to create other successful collegiate programs. He coached the exceptional athlete Jim Thorpe and his teammates, bringing national recognition to the small school. By , the Carlisle Indians were the most dynamic team in college football.

They had pioneered the forward pass, the overhand spiral and other trick plays that frustrated their opponents. The Carlisle Indians have been characterized as the "team that invented football. In , the Indians posted an 11—1 record, which included one of the greatest upsets in college football history. Thorpe scored all the points for Carlisle, a touchdown, extra point and four field goals. The Carlisle Indians developed a rivalry with Harvard and loved to sarcastically mimic the Harvard accent.

Even players who could barely speak English would drawl the broad Harvard "a" as in the Boston accent is non-rhotic, typically pronounced "pahk the cah in Hahvad Yahd". Carlisle students labeled any excellent performance, whether on the field or in the classroom, as "Harvard style". On November 9, , Carlisle was to meet the U. Secondary Sources.

Coleman, Michael C.

Native American Essays

Szasz, Margaret C. Primary Sources at the Montana Historical Society. OH , Corrine Deriana interview , Aug. Primary and Secondary Sources on the Internet. Vertical Files at the Montana Historical Society. See files on specific Schools and locations. Tip: To turn text into a link, highlight the text, then click on a page or file from the list above. To edit this page, request access to the workspace.

Indian Boarding School.

Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature
Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature
Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature
Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature
Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature
Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature Learning to Write Indian: The Boarding-School Experience and American Indian Literature

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