After reading My People the Sioux it really helped me understand what the Native American people went through in the time of this awful assimilation. Pratt was an awful man that believed the Native way was a bad one. Why was this way bad? Because it wasn’t the same way as the white people? It doesn’t make any sense where the white people of this time got this idea that the Native ways were bad. What disgusts me even more than the fact that they believed the Natives were wrong in the way they did things is the fact that the Native children believed them. Not knowing any better, the native children were getting brain washed with these white people ways. Pratt even got the boy’s father on board because he took the father too many cities. Once at these cities the man realized that there are many white people in these cities and the Native people would never survive without learning the white ways. The saddest part of this reading was when the father gives in: “This was the first time my father had ever spoken to me regarding acquiring a white man’s education. He continued: ‘Someday I want to hear you speak like these Long Knife people, and work like them’” (152). This moment broke my heart when reading this essay. Here, the father is giving up the ways of their people and saying to his son that he must learn as much white man customs and ways to survive in this world. Although this was very sad to read I felt that it was interesting how badly the young native boy wanted to be like the white people. He wanted to buy clothes that others didn’t have to be more like the white man. He wanted to study hard and do well and understand the language completely. It was sad at the end of the passage that all of this led to much conflict between tribes. Because of the children that were in the schools and not there was much conflict. The white men bought land from a father and chief of a tribe and then that man died because he didn’t stick to the native’s way of talking with the other chiefs. These schools did a lot more than good and stripped the Native Americans from their culture.
While reading “The School Days of an Indian Girl” I found it interesting that this story is so different from the last one. Here the girl resists at all costs and doesn’t want anything to do with the white people’s way. She resists having her hair cut and she even resists being tossed up and down like a wooden doll because her mother never did that before. The young girl says, “I despised the pencils that moved automatically, and the one teaspoon which dealt out, form a large bottle, healing to a row of variously ailing Indian Children. I blamed the hard-working, well-meaning, ignorant woman who was inculcation in our hearts her superstitious ideas” (190). This young girl hates everything about the white people because she believes it is killing her friends. In a way this is true, they would seek much more care, much more food if they were back with their loved ones rather than in this academy. She regrets going to school rather than to her mother, “ Often I wept in secret, wishing I had gone West, to be nourished by my mother’s love, instead of remaining among a cold race whose hearts were frozen hard with prejudice” (193). This quote really touched me; it is the perfect way to describe the white race.
“My People the Sioux” instantly took me back to the pictures displayed all throughout the film, In the Whiteman’s Image. What really bothers me about this reading both the hypocrisy and indecisiveness that [we] the white people seem to display. We take native peoples and put them in these institutions so that they can become ‘more like us’…yet how are they expected to become like us when they don’t receive equal treatment? These poor children are forced into these places, and that’s upsetting enough; then they don’t even receive a proper bed to sleep in? That’s not right at all; we can’t just take children and mold them into these people that we deem fit for our society. They don’t receive the same treatment, nor do they get the same level of respect. We strip them of their heritage entirely, and then what do we do? Send them to a school for African-American children. Just because then don’t fit the stereotypical mold of white society, doesn’t mean they classify with all the other ‘minorities’. What MAKES society is that diversity, and it’s truly sad that it took us so many years to realize it. Diversity is key, and an effort should be made to preserve it- not abolish it.
It also made me uncomfortable to hear that they’re sent to this African-American school only then to serve as zoo creatures for the general public. The reading states, “Soon some white people began to come in from near-by towns to see us…Lone Hill…if he saw a negro in the crowd he would put his war-shirt on…he would come out and chase the negro all over the ground until he left. How the people laughed at this! (135) That seriously makes me sick to my stomach. This behavior is not okay, and by going to ‘look at’ and essentially mock these prisoner children, we only help to further the ridicule.
Personally, I found “The School Days of an Indian Girl” to be very captivating. I feel that the reason behind this was that I saw a lot of myself in the girl. From her narrative alone I felt that I was able to get a firm grasp on what it was that she was going through. I truly, truly feel for these children, and her rebellious attitude in response to her treatment is incredibly valid. However, what I was a bit confused about was why the whites let the natives return to their homes after a few years of schooling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful that that is the approach they take- but if you’re going to take these innocent children away from their homes and strip them of their identities, only to send them back to their hometowns, why even make them suffer through the process in the first place? A person’s heritage is instilled in them, especially back then. You can ‘alter’ someone as much as choose to, but when they’re in their home with people that share that same heritage, there’s no way that your modifications are going to be able to shine through- especially if the person being altered was resistant to begin with.
“The School Days of an Indian Girl” was an interesting way to learn about a personal experience that an Indian girl has experienced, told from her personally. As we have discussed in class, society has been told many stories about the Indians that are not 100% accurate, but it is nice to hear someone’s actual experience. She begins by expressing how she and 8 other Indian children heading toward the East dreamt of roaming freely and happily. She referred to white people as “palefaces.” Her and other children missed their families. A quote that demonstrates not only her strength, but those of Indians and females as well is when she says, “our mothers had taught us that only unskilled warriors who were captured had their hair shingled by the enemy” (187). This Indian girl witnessed other children suffering from cruel punishments from showing their strength and commitment to their heritage. For example there was a girl who said “No” to every command from the paleface master and was whipped and beat. She realized what kind of environment she and the other students were in: “for now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder” (187). This quote demonstrates that these children were treated like animals, which is quite sad. The roll call that the palefaces had for the children seemed similar to what people in war or basic camp experience. This Indian girl is described as being brave with going through what the whites put her through and dealing with unknown surroundings, people, and language, but her tears show her hurt.
After reading and watching a section of “My People the Sioux,” I realized what life-changing and difficult transformations the Indian children went through. This specific school came to be with Captain Pratt in hopes of having the children learn in the manner that the whites wanted and he believed that educating them in this way would help their people. I like his passion for education but completely disagree with how he goes about changing the Indian, so much that it is as if he is stealing their identity. One quote that explains some of his reasoning for dealing with attending this school was, “I had come to this school merely to show my people that I was brave enough to leave the reservation and go East, not knowing what it meant and not caring” (135). These Indian boys were taught to memorize their name and learn how to write it, however there is another example of stealing their identity here because the white teachers made the children identify themselves by the white names that they assigned them. They were given white men clothes to wear and were not allowed to speak any Native American language and if they did, they would be punished. They studied the alphabet began to learn English. On top of taking their name from them, they also cut their hair which I think is completely unnecessary because they are already trying to alter their inner self, so why go to the next level and change their physical features? I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for these children to not only be taken away from their family but be ordered around from white strangers who are attempting to change everything about them. A quote that I found interesting is when he says: “and we are still imitations of white men, and the white men are imitations of Americans” (141). This quote makes me think that nobody is being their true self. For the Indians sake; they are not allowed to.
During the spring semester, I read Zitkala-Sa’s “Why I am a Pagan” and I was fascinated by her view. I was excited to have the opportunity to read more of her work. “The School Days of an Indian” was a heart-wrenching read. I knew very little about the Indian boarding schools, so reading a firsthand account of the horrors that these poor children faced was difficult. When Zitkala-Sa discusses her journey on the train where “their mothers, instead of reproving such rude curiosity, looked closely at me, and attracted their children’s further notice to my blanket. This embarrassed me,” I wanted to reach out and comfort her (186). This small girl scared beyond belief was pointed at like she was a sideshow at the circus. Once at the boarding school, circumstances progressively got worse for Zitkala-Sa with the women who “made a plaything of her” and the loss of her beautiful long hair for a haircut of a “coward” or “mourner” (186,187). Caretakers at the school, if you can call them that, treated Zitkala-Sa like an inanimate object instead of a human being probably because of her Native heritage. The recounting of the haircut made me want to cry while simultaneously burning up inside with fury. All the children at these boarding schools were stripped of their Indian culture, which was all they knew, in favor a foreign culture. The ‘Americanization’ process of Native Americans is shocking to me. Before this class, I had no idea that these events were a part of U.S. history. As a future educator, my heart breaks for these innocent children who were forcibly removed from their homes by a government accepted and funded program to remove the “Indianness” from their beings.
The excerpt from Luther Standing Bear’s autobiography was fascinating. I am completely surprised by Standing Bear’s desire to attend the Indian boarding school. When he openly admitted that he “had come to this school merely to show my people that I was brave enough to leave the reservation and go East, not knowing what it meant and not caring,” my heart shattered (135). I understand that he wanted to look tough and strong in front of his comrades of the reservation, but to willingly undergo such a risky adventure just to gain status in the tribal community is hard to wrap my brain around. I was also struck by Luther Standing Bear’s seeming acceptance of the ‘Americanization’ process. I guess he wanted to stay under the radar and please the caretakers; however he sacrificed a lot of himself in order to achieve this goal. He cut his hair, took an English name, and chose to buy American clothes with the allowance sent from home. Luther Standing Bear participated in the assimilation process more than Zitkala-Sa and I wonder if this has anything to do with their different gender.
After reading these two pieces on boarding schools, I have some questions. What happened after the children completed boarding school? Did they decide to continue their education? Did they go back home to their tribal nation? What higher education opportunities were available to Indian students who were educated at the Indian boarding schools? What was it like trying to reintegrate into a Native culture where the majority of people in the community are uneducated? Did the ‘graduates’ go back to dressing, living, and eating like Native people once they had left the boarding school? How many generations were educated in the Indian boarding schools? Would ‘graduates’ of the Indian boarding schools send their children to the boarding schools? How effective was the ‘Americanization’ process of Native American children aided by the Indian boarding schools?
One of the first things I noticed about My People the Sioux by Luther Standing Bear is that Luther did not seem very scared during his trip to the school. He mentions that his father told him “Son, be brave and get killed” (141). This could be why he didn’t seem to care about anything that happened to him. But he also shows confusion because Luther doesn’t know whether his father wants him to be learning all of the white people’s ways. The whole experience seems like something the Indians should be resisting; however, they all seem very excited to be doing everything just like white men, even before Luther’s father told him that he should be learning as much as he can. This book also makes me wonder where Luther’s father is getting money to send to him, or even why he sends Luther money at all. It just seems unnecessary, especially since Luther doesn’t know how to count money or how to buy anything. All the while, the children don’t even realize that they are being conformed to fit with the white men and losing their cultural heritage. Little do the Indians know, assimilating with the white people won’t help them when their land starts getting taken away again and again. It’s sad how clueless the children are to the injustice of the whole situation.
In The School Days of an Indian Girl by Zitkala-Sa, she had more of the reaction that I was expecting from the other reading. She responded with fear and tears and shaking instead of excitement. Although it is alarming to know that white people on the same trains as these Indians were so bewildered to see a Native person, and gawking at them like they were zoo animals. The difference between the two stories is incredible. Luther wanted to get his hair cut because all of the other boys had theirs cut. Zitkala-Sa was hiding and then fighting to not get hers cut because of what it means to her people. She did not want to be viewed as a coward. Reading that she lost her spirit is nearly heartbreaking because that is exactly what white people wanted to do to the Natives. It is insane that the Indian girls could be punished when they don’t even understand English. How could these white people expect the children to do what they are told if they do not understand what is being said to them? Another difference is that Zitkala-Sa’s mother did not approve of her learning all of the ways of the white man; however, she profited fairly well from a college education. She won competitions and was respected by a lot of people. Even still, she was subjected to the racism against Indians.
These two readings were very interesting and eye-opening to read. “My People the Sioux” and “The School Days of an Indian Girl” both had different perspectives on the assimilation experience. It is horrible to think that the English believed that the Native people were wrong in the way they lived and their customs. It still baffles me how we did not try to integrate with them instead of force them to assimilate to our culture.
Luther’s experience in school, as told in “My People the Sioux”, was an interesting one because he was one of the first Indian children to come to the school. He describes how at first they did not have any rules and that they gradually added rules on as he studied there. He also describes the need to succeed in order to make his father proud of him. His father comes to visit him and Pratt takes him to visit many of the new cities being settled, after seeing this Luther’s father is shocked of the extent to which the English as settling and realizes that in order to survive he wants his son to learn the “ways of the white man”. Luther does not realize this at the time, but his father is trying to protect him from being hurt. It is sad that some of the Indians felt that there only choice was to do as the English said because they were tired of fighting and killing.
Zitkala-Sa’s experience in school was very different from that of Luther’s. She describes in “The School Days of an Indian Girl” how she was very apprehensive to go to school in the first place. She explains how she was somewhat rebellious to the whole situation and how she hated the English for trying to strip her of her identity. When she finally returns home she is ready to throw away all she has learned only to see that her other family members who went to school were embracing what they had learned and trying to be more like the white people. In a tough decision against her mother’s wishes, she decides to go to college and is very successful there. But she cannot enjoy her successes because she finds that she is still saddened by the fact that her mother would probably not approve. This experience shows how hard it was for most of the Indian children after their experience. They were forced to change their identities, personalities, and beliefs and then sent back home. This probably caused a lot of confusion for the children who were only beginning to understand who they were.
The whole idea of sending the Native American children to school in order to start brainwashing them is an outrageous one. Today this would not be heard of. We are taught to embrace each child’s difference as teachers and cater to them. It is such a shame that we did not learn this sooner as a culture. We want to believe that we are a better country because we are “tolerant” and a “blending” of all cultures. The truth is, however; that we are not any of these things. We still have racism and sexism and not approving of others religions or beliefs. I think, in this case, it was good for the Indians to learn the English language, but it was very wrong in how they went about it. I believe that they should have had schools with both white and Indian children and taught them both languages together. Also they should not have based the schooling off of a military form. The English believed that they were doing the right thing by “civilizing” the Indians but they were not. The English were acting more uncivilized than the Indians by forcing them to assimilate to their culture instead of trying to blend together.
Getting Rid of the Indian
For these two stories, “My People the Sioux” by Luther Standing Bear and “The School Days of an Indian Girl” by Zitkala-Sa, the stripping of the Indian identity is quite prevalent. From changing their clothes, cutting their hair, and making them speak English only, These kids were being purged of who they were.
When Luther Standing Bear’s father goes to visit him, it is so sad that he has to request permission to speak to his own father. After being reunited I can only imagine how badly he wanted to communicate with his father that couldn’t speak English, but couldn’t do so without Pratt’s ‘yes.’ After receiving permission to speak to his father in their Native tongue, Luther Standing Bear’s father was brought to meet up with Pratt. Once father and son were able to spend some quality time together, Pratt brought Luther Standing Bear’s father with him to a few states. There he was able to see how the Indian population had diminished and that it was mostly white men now. That way he was able to warn his son of what was out there. I think that Pratt could have had two intentions in bringing Luther’s father with him on that journey. One reason could have been to gain his trust by being nice to him so that he would only say good things about him and the school. My other theory is that he brought him on that journey in order to show him that there no longer is a strong Native American presence so they need to conform to the white culture in order to survive.
Zitkala-Sa’s story is a heart wrenching one. She was scared to the point that she hid under a bed in order to get away. I can’t imagine being taken away from my family only for the people that I have been trusted with take my clothes away from me and expect me to eat on command. She says, “Our mothers had taught us that only unskilled warriors who were captured had their hair shingled by the enemy. Among our people, short hair was worn by mourners, and shingled hair by cowards!” (187). After hiding she had her hair shingled. The one thing that she had left of her Native American identity was taken from her. Now she was looked upon as a coward because only cowards wore their hair like that. I think she was brave for what she had done. She didn’t want any part of the white-way, so she snuck away to be on her own.
I can’t imagine having someone take me away from the ones I love and being thrown into a completely different culture where I have to learn a different language. While I can speak a different language, it was by choice, and the intentions here was to completely get rid of the Indian in the people because the white-way was the right-way.
“My People the Sioux” is a first hand account of Luther Standing Bear’s experience at an Indian boarding school. When Luther was first brought to the boarding school he was excited. He teacher seemed nice to him and he was anxious to learn. On the first scheduled lesson, he and the other Native American children were forced to go up to the board and pick a “white man’s name”. The children never heard the names pronounced, they simply had to pick based on what the writing of a foreign language looked like. He chose the name Luther. At first, Luther was proud when he was one of the first to learn his white man’s name and to be called one of the “‘bright fellows’” (137). He was very eager to learn how to write this name and practiced often. However, this changed when he was expected to learn the alphabet by himself. This is the first time he is disgusted because he realizes that “all this study business was not what [he] had come to the East for anyhow—so [he] thought” (138). This is also the first time he felt home sick. He accounts how his father told him to be brave, but never to learn how to give up his identity. He wishes that his father had given him that advice instead. Soon, a barber approaches the school. In the beginning Luther is excited to get his hair cut, to “be in style” as he said, “But when [his] hair was cut short, it hurt [his] feelings to such an extent that the tears came into [his] eyes” (141). His long hair was part of his identity and once again it was being stripped from him. Luther says, “[he] felt that [he] was no more Indian, but would be an imitation of a white man. And [Native Americans] are still imitations of white men, and the white men are imitations of the Americans” (141). This quote really touched me. I was moved when I read it, because Luther is right. Native American were herded like cattle onto a train that took them far away from their families and tribes and brought them to a military school where they were expected to disregard anything associated with being Native American. They were expected to look down on their tradition. They were expected to be disgusted by their families and their “uncivilized” culture. White men are imitations of Americans because they violated the constitution they wrote. America stands for a symbol of acceptance. Such policies are considered obsolete and laughed at to minorities and honestly they still are. This is an ongoing battle in the United States that did not end with the closing of boarding schools; that was just one small win. Native Americans are still prejudiced against. We have freedom of religion, freedom of speech—as long as you are a white, Catholic man.
Sign language was invented by Native Americans, something I did not know until I read this article. I assumed it was created by someone who was deaf and lived over in Europe. My sister takes sign language in high school. This is something he never knew as well. I feel like it’s drilled into my mind that things are just created my Europeans which is extremely sad. I am sadly influenced by this white view of the world, but slowly that is changing. When Luther’s father asks his to learn how to speak in the white man’s language, I was heart-broken because this meant his father recognized that whites’ were replacing their, the Native Americans’, culture and that he was accepting this.
The excerpt from the book “My People the Sioux” recounts the first person perspective of Luther Standing Bear upon first attending the Carlisle School that was run by Joseph Pratt, a prominent figure in the civilization and assimilation of Native American children in the 19th century. The young indigenous people were deliberately stripped of freedom, language, traditional dress and hair while being forced into a militant routine in an environment that was entirely controlled by the white force of authority. The school did not allow Standing Bear or his peers to speak their native language or practice their traditions and subsequently implemented a strict regimen of Christianity.
Standing Bear recalls an occasion when his father visits the Carlisle School and is dressed in a suite and bowler hat, having taken on the customs of Euro-Americans Chief Standing Bear is treated exceptionally well, Joseph Pratt even brings him across the country to show him the edifices that have been established by Euro-American settlement. The Chief then proceeds to tell his son to be ready to assimilate to white culture in order to survive. The excerpt ends with one of Standing Bear’s peers dying and the Carlisle School claims his body while denying him a proper Native American burial.
Zitkala-Sa’s depiction of her first-hand account in the events surrounding her Euro-American education in the article “The School Days of an Indian Girl” are in some ways very similar to Standing Bear’s account. Though Zitkala-Sa recounts much harsher emotional turmoil that weighs heavily on her introspective identity. She tells of the shame and embarrassment she experiences upon first attending the school in the east. Her and Standing Bear both share in the trauma implemented by the cutting of their hair, after that event she states “Then I lost my spirit. Since the day I was taken from my mother I have suffered extreme indignities,”(187) I choose to believe that this statement is not only in reference to her biological mother but also the land she was taken from that belongs to her people and the mourning of this separation is represented by the cutting of Native American children hair parallels the symbolic relationship they have with this severance. In a way because this action is a symbol of mourning and cowardice in the traditions of their people they are left to feel conflicted about their identities.
Zitkala-Sa tells of her small rebellions and feeling of separation within her school and within her tribe, in conjunction with this Zitkala-Sa goes through the rest of her schooling as an introvert. Shame and anger fuel a lot of Zitkala-Sa’s responses to her surroundings.