HomeThe End of Industrial boarding Schools

The End of Industrial boarding Schools

This is a photo of a mural meant to honor the students who attended Native boarding schools. Perhaps a deeper meaning remembers the breaking of a promise. The news reporter was told by a tribe member that the schools of the 80's were nothing like their early counterparts. This mural, although one of many, depicts three faces which all appear sad; possibly mourning. Two are adults and one is a child between 8 and 10 years old. There are many shades of black, grey, and blue; each person's skin is grey possibly representing that they have passed on. In the background of the picture, one of the school's surrounding walls can be seen, overcome by plants. A door to the building that hosts this mural can be seen wide open to all the elements and wildlife. This is becoming a forgotten place and these murals are part of keeping it alive to tell a tragic story.

The boarding school system didn't last forever; At least, not in it's original intent. By 1917, off-reservation schools were no longer allowed to coerce children to enroll. This lead to the encouragement of Indian youth to attend the public schools near or around their reservations. Finally, by the 1920's, boarding schools started to limit enrollment to older children above the age of 14, while those aged 14 and under were sent to public schools.1 

World War I was used as one reason for Carlisle to close, being it was formally used for military training and was used for that again once the school closed its doors.2 But the closure, in the broad spectrum, was widely symbolic. 

In 1918, Carlisle Indian Industrial closed for good, but when the school closed, the institutions it spawned and the desire to obliterate Native cultures did not die with it. In the U.S, after a brief period of romanticized respect shown to native cultures in the 1930's, there was a renewed federal determination to terminate tribal sovereignty and assimilate all Indians into mainstream society. In the face of all these threats, former students and their families chose to keep their stories hidden.3  

At the closure of Carlisle, it had become evident that "civilizing" Indians through education would require more time and less repressive measures than originally believed. Although the change to the school system did not come until the publishing of the Meriam Report in 1928 and with reform policies of the New Deal in the 1930s.4 

The Native American Boarding schools regain as a way to "...Solve the Indian problem."5 Although thought of as a grand gesture and fulfillment of treaty requirements, today we see the system for what it was: A way to provoke cultural genocide and wipe off the face of the earth the cultures that were present before the Europeans.