Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Exerience, ca. 1900
Federal Indian policy makers in the late 1800s and early 1900s sought to use boarding schools as an instrument for modifying Indian youth to "American" ways of thinking and living. Policy makers reasoned that only by removing Indian children from their homes for extended periods of time could white "civilization" take root, while childhood memories of "savagism" would gradually fade to the point of extinction. Traditional religious ceremonies were outlawed and it was mandatory for children to attend English-speaking boarding schools where Native languages and cultural traditions were forbidden. The idea was that when Indigenous people learned American customs and values they would soon merge tribal traditions with European-American culture and peacefully melt into the greater society. An ongoing exhibition-Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience-at the Heard Museum, 2301 North Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona explores the impact of boarding schools on Native Americans. The show draws on first-person recollections, memorabilia, writings, and the art of four generations of Indian school alumni considering the boarding school experience. "The boarding school experience is crucial to understanding Native Americans today," says curator Margaret Archuleta. "The exhibition allows both Native and non-Native visitors the opportunity to understand the collective history of Indian boarding schools, and to understand how that history has influenced contemporary Native American life."