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1910: Should Indian Children Be Mainstreamed?

Introduction: Until the 1920s, federal Indian education programs tried to assimilate Native Americans by placing them in institutions that replaced traditional ways with those approved by the government. Most white observers saw this as an act of kindness that helped Indians realize the American Dream. Many Indians, however, saw it as an act of aggression. Children were often removed from their families and sent to distant boarding schools to absorb the values, knowledge, and practical skills of mainstream America. Indian children were prohibited from speaking their native languages; those caught breaking this rule were often physically punished. Investigations eventually revealed poor diet, overcrowding, excessive labor, and substandard teaching, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs officially abandoned its policy of assimilation in the 1930s.

Background Reading: ʺAmericanization and the Bennett Lawʺ h t t p : / / w w w . w i s c o n s i n h i s t o r y . o r g / t u r n i n g p o i n t s / t p 0 3 1 / ? a c t i o n = m o r e _ e s s a and ʺAmerican Indian Sovereigntyʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp050/?action=more_essay y

Document to Analyze: Woodruff, C.D. ʺTomah Indian School: A model institution… http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=722


Who, What, Where, When, Why: Dr. C.D. Woodruff spent two days observing students and staff at the Tomah Industrial School for this article, hoping to persuade more people to support these institutions. His praise of the staff, cleanliness of the building, and quality of instruction may have been, in part, a response to criticisms of the boarding school system that were emerging at the time.

Related Documents: Office of Indian Affairs. ʺSome things that girls should know how to do and hence should learn how to do when in school.ʺ (1911) http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=749

ʺSewing Class at School for Indian Children.ʺ (photograph) http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=816


Office of Indian Affairs. ʺRules for Indian Schools, with course of study, list of textbooks, and civil service rules.ʺ (1892) http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=747


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