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Native American Boarding Schools: History, Effects, and Damages

Native American boarding schools were established in the nineteenth century with a target to prepare the indigenous children for life in the united multicultural community. Meanwhile, this assimilative educational process is widely regarded as negative because of dramatic impacts on student’s mental and physical health. The purpose of this study is to identify the main historical processes that formed the notorious perception of Native American boarding school. The significance of the research is based on the lack of studies with systematized sources used, which leads to the gap in knowledge of reasons and causes of the matter.

The question of the study is the relation between the historical development of this institution and its negative outcomes. The objectives of the research are to determine cause-and-effect relationships between the educational process and the historical trauma. Consequently, the history, effects, and damages caused by Native American boarding schools should be researched with the study of annotated bibliographies related to the matter with the following analysis of the sources.

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Annotated Bibliography

Adams, D. W. (2020). Education for extinction: American Indians and the boarding school experience, 1875–1928. University Press of Kansas.

The main points of this book cover the brief chronology of the introduction and evolution of this institution, developed to civilize the indigenous children. Then, the work describes the everyday experiences of Indian students isolated in boarding schools with the effects they got during the educational progress. Additionally, Adams describes the ways of students’ resistance to the process of their conversion with active and passive strategies applied. Based on school newspapers, government archives, autobiographies, and the author’s personal study of Indians who returned to the reservation after boarding schools, the book is supported by these documents, consequently, it is credible.

The intended audience of the work includes scholars investigating issues related to Native American boarding schools and their influence on the psychological, mental, and physical conditions of the graduates. Meanwhile, the book can be useful for general knowledge. The work is relevant for this research because it covers all the points of the thesis, including the Native American boarding schools’ history, effects, and damages; moreover, published in 2020, it is not outdated.

Krupat, A. (2020). Changed forever, volume II: American Indian boarding-school literature, SUNY Press.

The research of Native American boarding schools’ history requires first-hand evidence. This information was collected by Krupat in a form of autobiographical texts by Adam Fortunate Eagle, Reuben Snake, and other tribal writers. The main points of the book cover authors’ thoughts about the educational system, the chronology of its development, and their personal experiences. The credibility of the work is based on the usage of primary sources contributing their writings to Krupat. The intended audience of the book is wide and can include both scholars and amateurs investigating the phenomenon of Native American boarding schools. The relevance of this work for the research is in its authenticity and chronological depiction of experiences related to the institution.

Running Bear, U., Thayer, Z. M., Croy, C. D., Kaufman, C. E., Manson, S. M., AI-SUPERPFP Team. (2019). The impact of individual and parental American Indian boarding school attendance on chronic physical health of Northern Plains Tribes. Family & Community Health, 42(1), 1–7. 

The main points covered in the article include the investigation of chronic diseases caused by the attendance of Native American boarding schools. First, the research analyses the existence of any relationship between individual attendance and the total number of chronic health conditions. Second, it studies chronic health conditions correlated with the paternal boarding school attendance with such the statistics of such outcomes as tuberculosis, arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol, anemia, gall bladder disease, and cancer explored. Third, it includes the analysis of why Native American males may be more sensitive to early life stressors in comparison to females. Next, nutritional habits shaped in boarding schools are observed with their consequences in the adult life shown.

The article is credible as scientific research that includes data from 1,638 participants, collected from 1997 to 1999, and refers to 40 sources. The intended audience of the work includes scholars investigating medical, historical, and mental issues related to the Native Americans who graduated from boarding schools. The relevance of the article for the research is explained by the clear representation of information about the health effects of Native American boarding schools.

Gregg, M. T. (2018). The long-term effects of American Indian boarding schools. Journal of Development Economics130(1), 17–32. 

The main points of this article involve the analysis of the quality of education in Native American boarding schools with recent data and data from 1911 to 1932 taken into consideration. The research shows that reservations, where the main part of children was sent the larger share of students to off-reservation boarding schools, have a higher level of education than those who decided to study in reservations. Additionally, such effects as per capita income, poverty rates, the proportion of English speakers, and family sizes were explored.

The work is credible as a scholarly article published in a reliable journal with statistics, analysis, and references provided. The intended audience of the article is comprised of scholars investigating educational and financial rates of Native Americans who used to study at boarding schools. Meanwhile, the work is useful for this study as it covers the most significant effects of Native American boarding schools in terms of contemporary understanding of well-being.

Gone, J.P., Hartmann, W. E., Pomerville, A., Wendt, D. C., Klem, S. H., Burrage, R. L. (2019). The impact of historical trauma on health outcomes for indigenous populations in the USA and Canada: A systematic review. American Psychologist, 74(1), 20–35.

The main points of this article include the understanding of historic trauma experienced by Native Americans and its outcomes for their health. Then, the relationship between boarding school attendance and negative consequences is investigated, with the damage of Native American boarding schools explored. The credibility of this work is based on its accuracy with the statistics on traumatic outcomes provided. The potential audience of the article includes psychological and medical scholars investigating the results of attending Native American boarding schools, meanwhile, it may be useful for ethnographers and historians. The work is profitable for the research because the main dramatic consequences of the historical trauma are explored.

Skal, E. (2019). Civilization and sexual abuse: Selected Indian captivity narratives and the Native American boarding-school experience. A Journal of English Studies, 27(1), 77–89. 

The main points of this work involve the psychological and physical damage caused by Native American boarding-school in terms of sexual abuse. According to the research, indigenous children continuously had been suffering from extremely difficult living conditions

and repeated abuse from teachers, including its sexual form and consequent sterilization of children. The article is credible as it covers the analysis of the data within a century, refers to a big number of sources, and has the evidence in form of examples illustrating each matter. The potential audience of the research includes all scholars exploring Native American studies. The work’s usability for this paper is determined by the investigation of one of the most dramatic damages of Native American boarding schools.

Analysis

History

According to the literature analyzed, the history of Native American boarding schools started in 1860 with the first institution established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the state of Washington. Herbert Welsh and Henry Pancoast were the main ideologists of the matter, who wanted to use education to integrate Indian tribes into American life, to teach them the importance of material wealth and monogamy. According to Griffith (2019), the first target of the boarding schools was to provide indigenous children with simplified academic education: the English language and, additionally, arithmetic, science, arts, and history. Meanwhile, religious training in Christianity was the main subject focused on the building of new identities.

The second target of boarding schools was to raise economically self-sufficient children who would be ready to work hard with the required skills developed. Third, Indian values, such as communal, were supposed to be destroyed with individualism developed. The program was divided into two parts with English and academics taught within the first half of the day and the industrial training within the second. The atmosphere in schools was strict with discipline and self-restraint being highly praised.

The next stage of the boarding schools’ development was in 1879 when Richard Henry Pratt became the most influential figure in the education of that time. According to Krupat (2020), he claimed: “Kill the Indian, save the man” (p. 100). Regarding this statement metaphorically, Pratt wanted to destroy Indian identities and sent Indian students to live in white families in Summer. Adams (2020) cited that children were not satisfied by such a process and the rude attitude from teachers and tried to resist it with rebellions, fights, arsons, and escapes. Meanwhile, Indian parents were nearly deprived of communication with their offsprings, did not like the situation, and encouraged runaways. Consequently, in 1893 the law pressed Indian children to stay in Boarding schools, with the development of strategies decreasing Indian culture.

Apart from ethnic identity issues, indigenous children were constantly facing health problems. Students lacked medical support and nutritious food, and the situation was constantly getting worse (Gone, 2019). With the growing absence of emotional help and encouragement from parents and educators, who in most cases perceived the Indians negatively, the death rates were increasing. Parents were standing for their children and seeking legal rights to save them from Native American boarding schools, but only in 1978, the situation changed with the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Effects

The history of Native American boarding schools represents that the mechanisms used in its development destroyed the Indian identities of children and had negative impacts on their health. Meanwhile, according to Gregg (2018), the effects of this institution can be beneficial with higher educational and financial levels of Indians who stayed in schools before graduation. The statistics show that the economic well-being of those who followed the system was better than that of those who escaped schools, but it was still lower than that of an average white American. The inequality is noticeable even with the original values and identities reformed, and no cultural gap is left, consequently, the only benefit of attending Native American boarding schools cannot be regarded as completely positive.

The negative effects of Native American boarding schools can be divided into four main categories. The first one includes loss of identity persuaded by the system, low self-esteem and no sense of safety developed by educators, and the inability to form relations. Additionally, the health of individuals is widely influenced by the attendance with the development of chronic diseases (Running Bear, 2019). The second one covers the outcomes for families that involve the destruction of communication with extended family, loss of parental power, and the lack of desire to start families in adulthood (Reyhner, 2018). The third category consists of the loss of the community, language, traditions, and ceremonies. The fourth one is related to the national level and includes the depletion of tribes and the destruction of the national structure.

Damages

The damages of Native American boarding schools are the result of their historical development. According to Gone (2019), the main damages are physical and mental. Apart from mentioned as effects, physical damages include alcohol and substance use (Zephier Olson & Dombrowski, 2020). A stressful atmosphere and a lack of confidence lead to self-destructive thoughts, making suicide the second cause of death for Native youth (Urbaeva, 2017). Those, who do not try to kill themselves are still prone to addictions caused by poverty and the lack of support. This is explained by the correlation between substance use and the presence of Native American culture and family communication during the development of an indigenous person.

The study of works from the annotated bibliography indicated an indirect role of cultural identity as the positive way of prevention and reduction of drinking among Native American adolescents. Consequently, cultural traditions and values play an important role in the formation of a healthy population (Urbaeva, 2017). Contrary to this, staying at Native American boarding schools leads to the lack of national identity, loss of connection with relatives, and, consequently, provokes drinking and narcomania.

Psychological issues are closely connected to the rates of abuse, with especially widespread sexual abuse of Indian males. Consequently, their mental health is more flexible and fragile, and their addictions are based on stress (Skal, 2019). The initial roots of the abuse are in the attitude to the indigenous children and the historically developed forms of their upbringing. Meanwhile, sexual abuse with such consequences as depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and suicide has no direct explanation. Potentially, it can be regarded as the result of aggressive confirmation of teachers’ authority that may be similar to the sexual maltreatment in prisons.

Results

The results of the research show that there is an exact relationship between the history of Native American boarding schools and their effects and damages. First, built as an educational institution, it was created for the extinction of the ethnic identity. Second, with strict regulations, stereotypes about Indians, and rebellions of children, it developed a special attitude to children that shaped the negative outcomes only. Health, psychological, and mental issues are widespread among those who studied in Native American boarding schools with the core of their problems being in the system.

Conclusion

The findings in the context of what is already known about the topic are that suicides, health issues, and addictions of Native Americans who experienced education in Native American boarding schools are caused by abuse. This violence roots in the approaches used in the educational system and isolation. Meanwhile, these factors ate the consequence of the historical development of the institution. The importance of findings is the illustrated cause-and-effect relationships between the educational process and the historical trauma that can be implied for the development of strategies of psychological health for the survivors. For this, the potential ways to continue this research the deeper investigation of the males’ mental health matter in terms of Native American boarding schools.

References

Adams, D. W. (2020). Education for extinction: American Indians and the boarding school experience, 1875–1928. University Press of Kansas.

Gone, J. P., Hartmann, W. E., Pomerville, A., Wendt, D. C., Klem, S. H., Burrage, R. L. (2019). The impact of historical trauma on health outcomes for indigenous populations in the USA and Canada: A systematic reviewAmerican Psychologist, 74(1), 20-35.

Gregg, M. T. (2018). The long-term effects of American Indian boarding schools. Journal of Development Economics130(1), 17-32.

Griffith, J. (2019). Words have a past: The English language, colonialism, and the newspapers of Indian boarding schools. University of Toronto Press.

Krupat, A. (2020). Changed forever, volume II: American Indian boarding-school literature. SUNY Press.

Reyhner, J. (2018). American Indian boarding schools: What went wrong? What is going right? The Journal of American Indian education, 57(1)58-78.

Running Bear, U., Thayer, Z. M., Croy, C. D., Kaufman, C. E., Manson, S. M., AI-SUPERPFP Team. (2019). The impact of individual and parental American Indian boarding school attendance on chronic physical health of Northern Plains Tribes. Family & Community Health, 42(1), 1-7.

Skal, E. (2019). Civilization and sexual abuse: selected Indian captivity narratives and the Native American boarding-school experience. A Journal of English Studies, 27(1), 77-89.

Urbaeva, Z., Booth, J. M., Wei, K. (2017). The relationship between cultural identification, family socialization and adolescent alcohol use among Native American familiesJournal of Child and Family Studies, 26(10), 2681-2693.

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.

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