Published on February 18, 2013 by Casey
An Indian boarding school refers to one of many schools that were established in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to educate Native American children and youths according to Euro-American standards.
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They were first established by Christian missionaries of various denominations, who often started schools on reservations and founded boarding schools to provide opportunities for children who did not have schools nearby,especially in the lightly populated areas of the West. The government paid religious societies to provide education to Native American children on reservations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) founded additional boarding schools based on the assimilation model of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
Children were usually immersed in European-American culture through appearance changes with haircuts, were forbidden to speak their native languages, and traditional names were replaced by new European-American names. The experience of the schools was often harsh, especially for the younger children who were separated from their families. In numerous ways, they were encouraged or forced to abandon their Native American identities and cultures. The number of Native American children in the boarding schools reached a peak in the 1970s, with an estimated enrollment of 60,000 in 1973. Especially through investigations of the later twentieth century, there have been many documented cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse occurring at such schools. Since those years, tribal nations have increasingly insisted on community-based schools and have also founded numerous tribally controlled colleges. Community schools have also been supported by the federal government through the BIA and legislation. The largest boarding schools have closed. In some cases, reservations or tribes were too small or poor to support independent schools and still wanted an alternative for their children, especially for high school. By 2007, the number of Native American children in boarding schools had declined to 9,500.