This project is intended to encourage students to reflect on the multiple facets of the forced acculturation of the Native Americans during the late 19th and into the 20th century. There were many differing points of view on the "Indian problem," and how it could be solved.
Students learn to view photographs and text with a critical mind. They research issues involved in creating and administering Indian boarding schools. Finally, they investigate an individual or group of individuals who participated in these schools.
After exploring the pictures and written records of the individuals chosen, students assume the identity of the person(s) and write in a journal, and exchange their journals with other students who respond as their person would have responded.
Lesson 1 (one to two days)
- Read definitions of primary and secondary sources in Using Primary Sources and discuss with students as necessary. Model photoanalysis as necessary, using analysis tool and teacher's guides and your choice of primary source materials from the Assimilation through Education Primary Source Set.
- Direct students to view pictures from Appearances, Dwellings, and Daily Life and Customs.
- Students select a picture from Gallery A and its corresponding picture in Gallery B to analyze using the Primary Source Analysis tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
- Students select a document from Journal Resources and analyze it using the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teachers guide Analyzing Books and Other Printed Texts to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
- Students create their own gallery to illustrate the change that was expected of the children when they attended the boarding school.
Lesson 2 (one to three days)
- After completing the text analysis, students again use the Journal Resources to research the various individuals or groups of individuals who were associated with Indian boarding schools.
- Students select one person or group of people on which to focus.
- Students can learn more about their choice by selecting the text and reading the source material in more depth.
- Students may also search the American Memory collections for more information.
- To record the language, opinions, and beliefs of their person students may reflect on and answer these questions:
- What experiences did your person have with American Indian boarding schools?
- Did their lives change because of American Indian boarding schools?
- List words or phrases used by the selected person(s).
- List this person's thoughts or opinions on American Indian boarding schools.
- List the words or phrases this person used to reveal his/her biases.
- List words used that have different spellings today.
- List words that have different meanings today.
- In order to accurately portray their person(s) remind students to determine the following:
- What was the person's view and opinion on the value of boarding schools?
- What would they have had to say concerning a solution to civilizing the Indian?
- Would they have supported or discouraged the establishment of these schools?
- What terms, phrases, opinions, and justifications would have been used by their person(s)?
Lesson 3 (one to two days)
- Students assume the role of their character and write in a journal responding to a teacher selected question. Possible questions include:
- Why is there a need for American Indian boarding schools?
- Have you ever been to an American Indian boarding school? Describe your experience.
- Respond to the statement, "Indian children should attend Indian boarding schools so that they may be 'civilized'."
- Respond to the statement, "The education Indian children receive will enable them to lead a useful, productive life."
- Respond to the statement, "English is the only language to be spoken at the boarding school."
- Describe the changes in the American Indian children after they attended boarding schools for a time.
- Recommend at least one change in the American Indian boarding school system that would improve the schools.
- Predict how the life of the American Indian would be different without the boarding schools.
- Describe the funniest experience you had with an American Indian boarding school.
- Describe your saddest experience with an American Indian boarding school.
- Students must stay 'in character' as they write.
- It is helpful for students to have their research materials and reflections on the language, opinions and beliefs of their person available to use as reference when they write.
- Allow students time to reflect and compose.
- After writing, students exchange their journals with another classmate and respond to each other's journal entry.
- Exchange as many times and with as many different individuals as time allows. It is more interesting if new questions are introduced periodically during the exchange.
- On the final entry each student steps out of character and writes his or her own opinion of the attempt to "civilize the Native Spirit."
- Read more about the history of the American Indian in Immigration…The Changing Face of America on the Teachers Page's "Presentations" section.
- Design a yearbook for an Indian boarding school of your choice. Choose a school year from 1887 to 1945.
- Debate the following statement. Native Americans benefitted from attendance at boarding schools.
- Write a letter home as a boarding school student.
- Investigate past or present attempts of forced assimilation in other cultures.
- Map the locations of American Indian boarding schools in the United States.
- As a boarding school superintendent, design an annual school report to be sent to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
- Write an essay as if you were the director of a boarding school today. How would you operate it? Include subjects taught, daily schedule, and extra-curricular activities. Compare your school to Native American boarding schools in existence today.