Wednesday, January 28, 2015

INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLS--FOR INDIANS ONLY--PART 1 by Cheryl Pierson


It’s interesting to me to read the different viewpoints on old Indian boarding schools and orphanages—and even hospitals—that were in operation to accommodate Indians, and assimilate them into white society. Living here in Oklahoma, we have a few of the now-defunct facilities scattered around our state—one, Concho Indian School, not more than about an hour’s drive from my house. Let’s take a look at the beginnings of these schools and how they came into existence.

Richard Henry Pratt was the man who came up with the idea of boarding schools for Indian children. These schools would remove children from the reservations when they were very young, send them to a place run by whites, and immerse them in white culture. This would obliterate their “Indian-ness” and encourage them to cope with and join into the world as it had become—white.



Mr. Pratt founded Carlisle Indian Industrial School in1879 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and compared to genocide—which was a much-discussed option—seemed to be the only “reasonable” alternative in those days to annihilation of the Indians that remained after the Indian wars were over.

Some Indian parents willingly sent their children, but many (I would venture to say most) were threatened with imprisonment and loss of their food rations. Eventually, they understood there was no choice, and said tearful goodbyes to their children as they were shipped off. The boarding schools at that time were hundreds of miles away—Carlisle being the flagship school, located in Pennsylvania. One of Oklahoma’s most celebrated Indian athletes, Olympian Jim Thorpe of the Sac and Fox Nation, was sent there.

Once the children arrived, everything was taken from them. Their clothing was burned, in many cases, and they were provided uniforms. Their hair was cut short. Even their names were changed. And, they were forbidden to speak their native tongue—for most of them, the only language they knew.



In many boarding schools, everything was done by bells. No talking was allowed among the children—even among brothers and sisters. Punishment for doing so was beating or confinement.

By 1902, twenty-five federally funded boarding schools in fifteen states and territories had been built, with more being planned. Over 6,000 students were enrolled in these institutions. But only seven years later the system was coming under fire. Though graduates had been trained for factory or farm work, neither could be found on the reservations they returned to. No jobs for these young adults waited once their schooling was finished, and so returning to the reservations meant dependence on the U.S. Indian Agency rather than taking jobs that allowed them to provide for themselves.

Boarding schools were there to stay, though, and remained open for over 100 years, into the 1980’s.
The Concho Indian School I mentioned earlier, opened in Darlington, Indian Territory, in 1887. It was replaced in 1932, and again in 1969, until its doors were closed for good in 1981due to budget cuts and defunding.



According to many, it was a horrible place—and it wasn’t the only one. Stories of abuse of all kinds—physical, sexual, and emotional—run rampant. In fact, there is a psychological condition called CSDT or Constructionist Self Development Theory that has been identified for survivors of these schools, wherein they develop their own theories as to why this kind of upbringing was “good” for them—it made them stronger; it made them a “fighter”, and so on.

Survivors’ descendants tell of some of the horrifying experiences their relatives endured, and the abandoned Concho Indian School building is said to be haunted by the spirits of some of the young victims, hoping for justice after all these years.

One woman writes: I’m an Indian and my grandmother told me bad stories of this place…many children from my tribe were taken and some were never heard from again. I hate the thought of this place.”

This post barely scratches the surface, and I will continue next month with more about orphanages and hospitals “for Indians only.”

In my novel, GABRIEL’S LAW, Brandon Gabriel and Allison Taylor first meet in an orphanage run by a ruthless headmaster. Though it was not a place strictly for Indians, the unhappy circumstances Brandon and Allie are faced with here forges the beginnings of trust, with love to come in the future.


I will be giving away an e-copy of GABRIEL’S LAW today to one lucky commenter!


Here’s the blurb:
When Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, he doesn't suspect a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn't expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob. When Spring Branch's upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, nobody expects to hear the click of a gun in the hands of an angel bent on justice. Life is full of surprises.

Brandon and Allie reconnect instantly, though it's been ten years since their last encounter. She's protected him before. As Brandon recovers at Allie's ranch, the memories flood back, and his heart is lost to her. He also knows staying with her will ruin everything. She's made a life for herself and her son. She's respectable. She has plans * plans that don't include him. But could they?

Trouble is never far away, and someone else wants Allison Taylor and her ranch. Danger looms large when a fire is set and a friend is abducted. Allie and Brandon discover they are battling someone they never suspected; someone who will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who stands in his way. As Brandon faces down the man who threatens to steal everything from him, he realizes he is desperately in love with Allie and this new life they are making for themselves. Has Brandon finally found everything he's ever wanted only to lose it all? Can Brandon and Allie confront the past, face down their demons, and forge their dreams into a future?


If you just can’t wait to see if you won, here’s the Amazon link!
http://www.amazon.com/Gabriels-Law-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00K2I2JRM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421794538&sr=8-1&keywords=Gabriel%27s+Law+by+Cheryl+Pierson

19 comments:

  1. Cheryl, I hate the Indian schools. Perhaps they began with good intentions, but they were a bad idea. Children should not be ripped from their parents, nor should their identity be obliterated.

    I love your writing and look forward to your releases. Best wishes.

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  2. Caroline, thank you so much! That means the world, coming from you.

    Oh, yes, those Indian schools were just the devil! I know there had to be some good intentions involved--Mr. Pratt probably felt this was better than genocide, but I can't imagine how scared and worried those little children must have been.
    Cheryl

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  3. I first heard about the Indian schools from reading a romance novel (name of author and book title escapes me), and it's stuck with me since then. Thank you for this post. It's time I did more digging myself and learn more about it. Looking forward to your post next month, Cheryl.

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  4. Thanks, Peggy. Not surprisingly, there's not as much out there research-wise as I was hoping for--the whites don't want to talk about it and the Indians don't want to, either. A horrible time in our history as we look back on it now...I can only think that at the time, that must have been a better solution than killing them all.
    Cheryl

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  5. hi Cheryl, awesome excerpt. I continue to be heartsick at the horrors inflicted upon our native peoples.

    Great post! xo

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  6. The Indian Schools are one of those horrific parts of our history. I agree, I think probably they were started with good intentions, but nothing that strips a child from their family, home and identity can ever be a good thing. I think it's the arrogance of any culture to believe their's is the best and all others must conform. You can see it anywhere one peoples invades another.

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  7. Cheryl,

    You teach us all with posts like these. Part of our less than stellar past that should never be forgotten.

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  8. It breaks my heart.

    Thank you. Most interesting.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  9. Hi Tanya, I know you and I have talked about this before, and every time I look at that picture of those little faces all just staring out with those blank looks, it makes me want to cry.
    Cheryl

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  10. Kirsten, I so agree. I know it was "different times" but still...it just shows us how far we've come in a little over a hundred years, but how far we have to go, and that's sad. Because, well, have we really come that far?
    Cheryl

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  11. Thanks, Alisa. Yes, you are right--to forget it is to repeat it.
    Cheryl

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  12. Mary, mine too. I will never understand how people could have been so cruel but I suppose they (or at least, SOME of them) thought it was for the Indians' good.
    Cheryl

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  13. I'm not sure humans are ever going to learn to let people live their own culture instead of trying to make us all the same--by someone else's standard of what we ought to be. I hate to be a pessimist, but I'm skeptical about this particular change.
    Gabriel's Law was a great story--a true testimony from you about the things that matter.

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  14. Aw, Sarah...thank you. It was hard to write, in places. I know you know how it is--you love your characters and you especially don't want anything bad happening to them as children. LOL

    Like you, I wonder if anything will ever truly change in that regard. Just gotta cross our fingers, and do what we can to shine a light on things, and hope for the best.

    Thanks for coming by today, Sarah!
    Cheryl

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  15. The Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence (about twenty miles distant from me) started out a something similar. It's hard to find any info about how the students were treated, but due to a fight over the lands behind the school it came to light that many students had run away from the place in the 1800s. The land they traveled over to get away from the school is considered to be sacred ground, and they don't want a highway bypass going through the space. Looking forward to the next installment.

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  16. Cheryl--thanks for reminding us about the difficult ways that were tried to assimilate the Native Americans. There's little to nothing to do about it all now, except to learn and know about it and hope one day, we will all be more tolerant toward anyone different from us. It's a hard road.
    I knew about these long ago, because the Presbyterians (us) set up some of the schools. They were one of the first--if not the first--denomination to become missionaries and move into the frontier.
    There is a novel titled "1000 White Women"...I may write about that one day. I don't think I have. It's fiction, a novel, but there are readers to this day that believe it's a true story. It's no...but it is interesting.
    Gabriel's Law? Oh, yes, I do remember reading it--it's a gripping vivid tale...as only you can write.

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  17. JD, so good to see you here today! You know, there is just no telling how many kids died right there on those lands and were buried, let alone the ones who ran away and made it. There's no respect anymore for the lives and deaths of those people--just the need for greed, and new highways to be built. It's really sad.

    Thanks for your kind words!
    Cheryl

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  18. Celia, I know you've probably seen this blog before--I try to post it everywhere and today was the lucky day for the Sweethearts! LOL It's just so important to me, I want everyone to be aware of it. There's more to come in the next editions--orphanages and hospitals.

    My 3xgr grandfather was taken from his Indian village and given to a Presbyterian minister to raise--I think they must have been good to him--they sent him to medical school and he became a doctor. But still...

    Oh yes. 1000 White Women. Loved that book soooo much. So different and so wonderful. I talked a bit about it over at the Once Upon a Word blog today--talking about my "top 5" books over there and what everyone else's might be. That one is in my top 5.

    Celia, thank you so much--I always love your thoughtful, insightful comments.

    Cheryl

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  19. MY WINNER OF GABRIELS LAW IS....

    ALISA BOISCLAIR!

    Congratulations, Alisa, and thanks so much to everyone who stopped by to read and comment!

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