The road after Indian Residential Schools: A part of U.S History

A photo of Native American children at a Residential School. Source: Texas Beyond History


The following article includes discussion of the physical and sexual abuse of children

“Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” was the motto used to justify the existence of Native American Boarding schools in the late nineteenth-century United States. Their establishment separated from their families, which forced them to cut ties with their cultural identity. Ultimately, the forced assimilation of Native American children into European-American society not only contributed to a loss of culture, but even resulted in many deaths.

Established in the late 1800s, boarding schools were a government attempt at indoctrination of Native children into the dominant Western culture. According to PBS, the first boarding school that was federally run for young Native Americans in the U.S was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which opened in 1879. According to NPR, there have been over 100 different Native American boarding schools run by the government. Today, there are still a few of these schools running, although assimilation and integration are no longer their objectives.

Indian Boarding Schools operated in a manner where separations of children from their families either involved manipulation of guardians - often with the promise that their children would be given food and care - or forced removal by government officials.

In an interview with Paper Bridges, Albert Titman, a Native American counselor with tribal affiliations to the Nisenan, Miwok, Maidu, Mixeca, and Pit River peoples shared his father’s experience with home removal. Titman’s father was stolen from his home at five years old, put into a government vehicle and placed into a Catholic Boarding School, located at the other side of Yosemite.

“And while he was there, from the age of five years old, you know, he was ethnically cleansed.” Titman said. He added that one of his grandmothers and grandfathers had also been brought up in a Boarding School in Riverside, CA.

For some families, generation after generation of children were taken. Titman shared about underground ceremonial houses that the community used to hide children from the government. His father would remain in the system until he was twelve years old.