January 2018 Archives


The history of Native American higher education over the last 300 years was one of compulsory Western methods of learning, recurring attempts to eradicate tribal cultures, and high dropout rates by Native Americans at mainstream institutions (Boyer, 1997).  This was certainly true of higher education in the colonial era and it was also true at the time of this study.
Varied experiments in Indian education were widespread throughout colonial America.  The diversity of the individual colonies, as well as the different settlement patterns and governments of colonial regions, mirrored efforts to educate non-Indian children in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Thus, in New England where a strong tradition of formal education developed, the greatest number of Indian schools operated; conversely, in the deep south where the fewest number of schools operated and illiteracy rates were highest, there were few attempts to organize Indian schools.  (Indian Boarding Schools, n.d., para. 4)
 
In his doctoral thesis, Piety, Politics, and Profit: American Indian Missions in the Colonial Colleges, Wright (1985) reveals the little known fact that early colonial colleges were founded with the express purpose of the propagation of Christianity among the American Indians.  Wright goes on to say that throughout the colonial period, the English viewed "education as a primary means" (p. 7) to accomplish this pious mission.  The purpose of his study was to "investigate, detail, and interpret the higher education of American Indians during the colonial period" (p. 11).  Wright critically examined the educational Indian mission in four colonial colleges.  He examined institutional experiments at Henrico College, Harvard College, the College of William and Mary, and Dartmouth College.
Wright (1985) found that while the colonial educators professed their own piety as if this were their singular motivation, they capitalized on the charitable impulses of the pious English and on the opportunities the charity presented in furthering other political and economic interests.
Wright (1985) revealed how funds that had been collected for conducting early experiments in educating Native Americans were diverted from the intended purpose to fund other projects.  This was a primary cause for the ultimate failure of these early experiments in Indian education.  
The colonists' plans for formal Indian schooling centered around two beliefs: (a) Any schooling endeavor must Christianize and civilize Native peoples - thus, the primary teachers and promoters of Indian education were to be missionaries and pious laypersons; and (b) Indians must be persuaded to send their children to school (Szasz, 1988).

These two beliefs formed the foundations for many Indian education experiments.  Some of the best known include Harvard College, opened in 1636 partly for the "education of the English and Indian Youth . . . in knowledge: and Godliness" (Wright, 1988, p. 6); William and Mary College, founded in 1693 in part so that "the Christian faith may be propagated amongst the Western Indians" (p. 8); and Dartmouth, opened in 1769, to offer "all parts of Learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and christianizing Children of Pagans" (p. 11).  Clearly, the colonists sought to use education to destroy the "Indianness" of the Native peoples.  The reasons they failed become evident upon examining the colonial enrollment records at all three institutions.  Indeed, few Indians attended and even fewer graduated; only one Indian received a degree from Harvard, while an average of 8-10 Indian students were enrolled at William and Mary each year (Szasz, 1988).

Most Native Americans resisted sending their children to school; however, missionaries did manage to persuade a few families into believing the key to Indian survival in an increasingly hostile colonial environment was attending a white man's school.  These Indians reluctantly surrendered their children in the hopes that a Euro‑American education would help them survive in a world becoming increasingly hostile to Native Americans (Szasz, 1988).
Early colonial attempts to educate Native Americans failed for the same reasons educational attempts failed throughout the history of Indian education, up until the present.  Missionaries had no comprehension of the complexity and sophistication of traditional Native educational, social, and cultural systems, and they harbored deep prejudices against the Indians (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969).  This deep prejudice was the result of their religious zeal, and it prevented them from understanding why the Indians held onto their cultural values and spirituality with such tenacity (Wright, 1985).  Rather than live with such scorn, early Native American students often returned to their own people without completing their education (Szasz, 1988).  Although early colonial schools educated a very small percentage of Native American children, their supporters had successfully created the foundation upon which the future of Indian education would rest.  Thereafter, the majority of Native Americans would view education as an effort to stamp out their religion and culture by Christianizing and civilizing their children (Szasz, 1988).
Henrico College
The first proposal for organized education of any kind in the American colonies was Henrico College.  The history of attempting to impose European English style education on American Indians goes back to the establishment of the Henrico Proposal in 1618 (Stein, 1988).
In keeping with the prevailing ideology of colonial conquest that suggested a European obligation to "pacify" and "civilize" indigenous people, British Virginians petitioned the crown for funding to develop an Indian college within a decade of the first permanent settlement at Jamestown.  (Native American Colonial, n.d., para. 1)
 
"The Henrico settlement was the third attempt by the English, under the auspices of the Virginia Company of London, to establish a permanent settlement in close proximity to the mouth of the James River in Virginia" (Vacik & Miller, 1995, p. 6).  In 1610, the Virginia Company of London went on record stating the mission of the company was to educate and evangelize the Native Americans, "to preach and 
baptize . . . and by propogation of the gospell, to recover out of the arms of the divell, a number of poore and miserable soules, wrapt up unto death, in almost invincible ignorance" (Wertenbaker, 1914, p. 31).
As the settlement in Virginia grew, and as more contact with the Natives occurred, the education of the Native American became a company goal.  Edwin Sandy's ultimate plan was to institute a systematic scheme of education for Virginia, leading up from free school to college and, in further time, a university (McCabe, 1922).  In the early days of the settlement, an Englishman, Reverend Alexander Whitaker, succeeded in converting a number of Natives to the Christian faith.  Buoyed by his success, he urged the entire English nation to come to the salvation of the "naked slaves of the devill" (as cited in Vacik & Miller, 1995, p. 8).  In addition to saving their souls, Whitaker also envisioned cultural salvation for the Natives as well.  An excerpt from a company tract written in 1613 demonstrates the intent of the Virginia settlement to develop a university and make a place for educating Indian children.
We do therefore according to a former grant and order hereby ratifie [sic] confirm and ordain that a convinient [sic] place be chosen and set out for the planting of a university at the said Henrico in time to come and that in the mean time preparation be there made for the building of the said College for the Children of the Infidels according to such Instructions as we shall deliver And we will and ordain that ten thousand acres partly of the Lands they impaled and partly of other Land within the territory of the said Henrico be allotted and set for the endowing of the said Henrico University and College with convenient possessions.  (Kingsbury, 1933, p. 102)
 
However, the impetus for building a college at Henrico really emerged when Rebecca Rolfe, better known as Pocahontas, married a 29-year-old widower named John Rolfe and converted to Christianity (Burton, 1904; Hawke, 1966).  Rebecca carried herself with such poise and dignity that her untimely death in 1617 set into motion a national project, to establish a college at Henrico for the conversion and education of Virginia's Native Americans (Hawke, 1966).  Therefore, the mission of the college at Henrico was primarily to educate and evangelize the Native Americans (McCabe, 1922).  In turn, these educated Native Americans would return home and convert their fellow tribesmen to Christianity (Chitwood, 1948).  Henrico College may have been the first example of vocational education that "was to have been somewhat like an industrial school with the purpose of making Indians useful members of society" (Land, 1938, p. 487).

Though the plans for the proposed college in Henrico were officially endorsed both by the Virginia Company in 1618 and King James, the goal of establishing an institution to educate the "Children of the Infidels" . . . was to be ultimately frustrated by fraudulent money management.  (Native American Colonial, n.d., para. 1) 

 

Sir Edwin Sandy, the venerable treasurer of the Virginia Company, collected a net £2,043 for the express purpose of an Indian college at Henrico, but used the funds to ship indentured tenants to the colonies (Native American Colonial, n.d.).

With the establishment of a college for Native Americans at Henrico, a pattern emerged: fraudulent use of funds earmarked for Native American education.  This pattern was to persist throughout the colonial era.  "Dartmouth, like Harvard and the College of William and Mary, survived its first years by fraudulent use of moneys earmarked for Indian education" (Native American Colonial, n.d., para. 12).  Administrators at those first colonial colleges opportunistically capitalized on English fears of Native American uprisings to "appeal to charitable Britons' sense of pious duty to socialize the 'heathen' races of North America, and generally met with success irrespective of sectarian identity" (para. 12).

Harvard College
Shortly after its founding, Harvard's president, Henry Dunster, professed an interest in converting Indians into Christians in order to gain access to the free-flowing charitable funds that were available for that purpose.  Dunster's requests for funding coincided with the uneasy end of Connecticut's Pequot War.  Dunster's efforts were successful and, by 1653, an Indian college was built on Harvard's premises.  Dunster deceptively reported on the progress of his Indian students to benefactors in England; however, no Indian students entered Harvard until 1660, seven years after the college was founded (Native American Colonial, n.d.).
In the four decades of the Indian college's existence, it housed only four known Indian students out of its total capacity of forty.  Instead, administrators used the Indian school building to accommodate twenty English students capable of providing Harvard with sorely needed revenue.  (Native American Colonial, n.d., para. 4)
 

William and Mary

Just prior to the movement to found the Anglican school of William and Mary, Nathaniel Bacon, a wealthy frontier planter and relative of the governor, organized a group of exploited laborers (indentured servants under contract to work for wealthy planters) and they attacked some peaceful Indians.  Bacon and his followers felt the Indians were being coddled by the government.  The colonists were angry about poor working conditions in the colonies and lack of farmland.  Some of them started farming on Indian land, ignoring treaties between the government and local Indians (Stuckey & Salvucci, 2003).

When the governor of Virginia tried to stop Bacon from attacking the Indians, Bacon and his followers attacked and burned Jamestown, a colony in Virginia.  After Bacon's rebellion, the colonists had an understandably difficult time making peace with the Indians (Stuckey & Salvucci, 2003).  The government recognized that there was a serious need to create a mechanism for socialization of the Native Americans in order to co-opt the constant threat they posed on the frontier.

In a direct reference to the troubles on the frontier, the Commissary of Virginia, James Blair, solicited funds from England [for a college] arguing that the purpose of the college was so that "the Christian faith may be propagated amongst the Western Indians" (Wright, 1988, p. 8).  In 1693, Blair obtained a royal charter for the establishment of the College of William and Mary.  (Native American Colonial, n.d., para. 6)

 

However, for the funds he procured in England for the Indian college, Blair contrived other more expedient outlets: there was no known Native American enrollment in William and Mary prior to 1705 or after 1720.  J. E. Morpurgo, William and Mary's historian criticized Blair's enterprise as "an entry in the ledgers through which charitable funds could be funneled to extraneous activities" (Wright, 1988, p. 9).  Partly due to the reluctance of Native American students to abandon their own social matrix and partly because most of William and Mary's funding was diverted into reviving the financially strapped college, the scheme to create through education a class of Europeanized Native Americans to act as diplomats between Europeans and their tribes failed.  (Native American Colonial, n.d., para. 7)

 

Dartmouth College

The case of Dartmouth represents yet another appeal to pious English benefactors for Indian educational funds, rendered all the more powerful this time by British insecurities concerning Native Americans in the aftermath of the French and Indian War (1754-63).  The French and Indian War was fought between the French and the British over the right to settle North America.  Britain won the right to settle North America, then took over French forts in North America when the French withdrew.  British settlers refused to give supplies to Native Americans as the French had.  British colonists also moved across the Appalachian Mountains onto Native American land.  Native Americans retaliated by attacking settlers and destroying almost every British fort west of the Appalachians.  The British reacted with equal violence killing even Indians who had not attacked them (Garcia, Ogle, Risinger, Stevos, & Jordan, 2002).

The founder of Dartmouth College, Congregationalist Eleazar Wheelock, capitalized on this tension between the British and Native Americans by requesting funds to educate the Indians.  By educating Native Americans, Eleazar Wheelock hoped to keep them from starting wars with the colonists (Native American Colonial, n.d.). 

In 1763 Eleazar Wheelock advanced a proposal for establishing a college in New Hampshire for the purpose of "introducing religion, learning, agriculture, and manufacture among the Pagans in America" (Wright, 1988, p. 10). . . . Wheelock sent a former Indian student to England to solicit funds for his project.  The student, Samson Occum, raised £12,000 "in the mistaken belief that the funds were to be employed 'towards building and endowing an Indian academy'" (Wright, 1988, p. 10).  Yet, following a then familiar pattern, Wheelock had no intention of using the funds to build the said Indian academy.  Instead he exhausted all of Occum's collections in 15 years educating 160 students, a mere 40 of whom were Native American.  (Native American Colonial, n.d., para. 11)
There is a concern on the amount of stealing, theft, drug and alcohol on the reservation and communities. Rightfully so...many have ideas on those committing thievery and or drug and alcohol pushers and abusers should be handled. Mind you it isn't just a problem here but a problem all over. That said, here is my thoughts on these matters. Law enforcement needs help, when seeing suspicious activity report it to the local authorities, somebody steals something tell them you are going to report it if they do not do the right thing and return the stolen property. People who are selling and pushing drugs need to be brought to the light and go before a designate council and address their selling. Laws need to be enforced as they read for the law not followed. Policy and procedures apply to everyone and just not to a certain few. Our reservation and community need to apply the same policies and rules for everyone including their family and friends. We have different cultural and religious beliefs on or near the reservation. All deserve the same respect. We are the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and first and far most our way of life should not be put on the way side. Our ancestors did not put their Anishinaabe way of life aside even if they did follow a religion. Most still talked the Ojibwa language or other American Indian languages, practiced child birthing at home, made gardens, picked and dried berries, made the natural medicines. Attended the bush dance and then went to the powwow at the round halls or someone's home. Most today even if they do not acknowledge their heritage still follow the footsteps of the ancestors. That is a whole topic itself. We as Anishinaabe have been lied to, cheated out of land, cultural, and language that contains our vital heritage. Now mind you we have to use our heritage to combat the problems we have on the reservation and communities. Back in the ancestor's time their was no room for idleness, everyone worked for a living, their was a belief in Kitchimanitou=Great Spirit (God) and a following in the Seven Sacred laws and the Clan totem that governed the village. The children played but were expected to help with chores and care for the elders and younger children in the village. In fact, they went to the elders, and master artist in the village and learned from them everything they needed on being an adult. They offered the asema=tobacco, and a gift for the wisdom shared to the elder or master artist. Land was not over worked and sharing was a big part of daily life. Elders and children were highly cared for and respected as well as cherished. When an individual or individuals misbehaved they were scolded by aunts and or uncles, teased in fact. If it was a more serious law broken a council of individuals talked to the individual or individuals. The individual or individuals were given an opportunity to make amends and or restitution If they violated again the council could choose banishment and tattoo the individual(s). It was up to another village if they wanted to take the banished individual(s) in. There is hopelessness and helplessness on our reservation with all the stealing, theft, broken relationships, alcohol and drug sellers, and abuse. Not only alcohol and drugs but prescription medicine. Our Anishinaabe way of life should be sought out in all matters to make the village whole again. We may not be able to save everyone but this is our community and we can choose to make a difference for the future of the children. Miigwech

The "Discovery" of America

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When Europeans first sailed to America, Indian tribes (tribal nations) were sovereign by nature.  They conducted their own affairs and depended upon no other source of power to uphold their acts of government (Canby, 1988).  "Indigenous American nations were not conquered by the U.S. armed forces, as many believe" (Treaty Rights, n.d., Historical Context section, para. 2).  Rather, indigenous lands were obtained through negotiation and contractual consent.  The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 declared, "The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent" (Pevar, 2002, p. 6).  Due to the ability of the tribal nations to wage war and the seemingly endless availability of land, both the colonial governments and the young United States realized it was in their best interest to allow tribal nations to regulate their own affairs.  Thus began the era of treaty signing between tribal nations and the federal government.  The first treaty between the American Indians and the United States was with the Delaware in 1778 (Utter, 1993).

Treaties are defined as legally binding contracts between parties that cannot be changed or cancelled without agreement by all parties.  Indigenous nations were recognized as separate, sovereign entities and treaties established distinct boundaries between Indian and non-Indian territories.  Within their territories, Indigenous Americans governed their own internal matters.  (Treaty Rights, n.d., Historical Context section, para. 2)

 

The definition of treaties is reflective of a general rule of international law that states that the internal laws of acquired territories continue in force.  A tribe, as defined by the United States Supreme Court, is as follows: "By a 'tribe' we understand a body of Indians of the same or similar race, united in community under one leadership or government, and inhabiting a particular though sometimes ill-defined territory" (Utter, 1993, p. 29).  Eventually, the United States made treaties with hundreds of indigenous tribal nations, exchanging payments for land and access rights (Canby, 1988).

From the first moment of contact with Europeans, the indigenous people of North America were at an extreme disadvantage.  Not only were they at a disadvantage from a technological standpoint, but they were also at a disadvantage from a cultural standpoint.  This contrast in culture was evident in the relationship between the two groups.

Indian culture was based on an oral tradition, as they placed a high value on the spoken word.  Their verbal words were binding.  European culture was based on the written word; their written word was binding, but words spoken were often forgotten.  Therefore, Indians were at a distinct disadvantage whenever negotiations took place.  Whenever a European spoke, the Indians viewed the words as binding; Europeans did not.  Whenever Europeans tried to write things down, Indians did not understand the necessity of writing things down.  Were not the words enough?  The difference in methods of communications between immigrants and Native Americans often led to misunderstandings and broken treaties.

When Native Americans heard promises like "as long as the grass shall grow and the river flows," they took them literally.  Even today, many Native Americans do not believe that the terms education, health, and welfare, promised to them in the treaties, have all been honored by the United States.  They are still waiting for the federal government to fulfill promises outlined in the treaties.  Another cultural difference is evident in the way Indians and Europeans approached negotiations.  Whenever Indians and Europeans came together, the Indians often viewed their relationship as an alliance; the European immigrants, as a business proposition, a means to acquire more land.

An inherent weakness Native American tribes had when interacting with the "white man" was that the Indians did not view themselves as one group of people.  Prior to European contact, American Indians were not "Indians," but were members of many independent and diverse socio-political and cultural groups (Utter, 1993).  Tribes were well aware of the diversity and unique culture between each group of people.  Each tribe had its own beliefs, customs, and cultures.  Because each tribe was a unique entity and group, immigrants encroaching further and further into Indian territory often divided Indians.  The tremendous numbers of European immigrants eventually conquered the small independent bands of Native Americans, not necessarily through warfare, but through sheer numbers of persons.  A surrender speech made by Cochise, an Apache leader and warrior, demonstrates his frustration at the numbers of immigrants.

Many people came to our country.  First the Spanish, with their horses and their iron shirts, their long knives and guns, great wonders to my simple people.  We fought some, but they never tried to drive us from our homes in these mountains.  After many years the Spanish soldiers were driven away and the Mexican ruled the land.  With these, little wars came, but we were now a strong people, and we did not fear them.  At last in my youth came the white man, under your
people. . . . I have fought long and as best I could against you.  I have destroyed many of your people, but where I have destroyed one white man many have come in his place; where an Indian has been killed, there has been none to come in his place, so that the great people that welcomed you with acts of kindness to this land are now but a feeble band that fly before your soldiers as the deer before the hunter, and must all perish if this war continues.  I have come to you, not from any love for you or for your great father in Washington, or from any regard for his or your wishes, but as a conquered chief, to try to save alive the few people that still remain to me.  I am the last of my family, a family that for very many years have been the leaders of this people, and on me depends their future, whether they shall utterly vanish from the land or that a small remnant remain for a few years to see the sun rise over these mountains, their home.  I here pledge my word, a word that has never been broken, that if your great father will set aside a part of my own country, where I and my little band can live, we will remain at peace with your people forever. . . . I have spoken.  (Armstrong, 1971, p. 187)

 

Native Americans were puzzled by how the colonists lived, but they did not see any reason to change them.  On the other hand, the colonists' misunderstanding of the Native American way of life, of living as one with the land, wild and free, was sometimes used as an excuse by the colonists to change, "educate," or assimilate the Indians.  Some colonists wanted to modernize and help the Indians out of their ignorant state.  Many colonists were afraid of the Indians' fierce countenance and apparently "savage" existence and wanted nothing to do with them.  Other colonists may even have felt that the Indians were lesser human beings, too ignorant and wild to change, and as subordinate beings should be exterminated (Mintz, 2003).

The French philosopher Montaigne reflected on the pervasive ignorance about Indians that existed in early colonial times when he said, "[The Indian] had no knowledge of letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politics . . . no apparel but natural" (Mintz, 2003, European Perceptions section, para. 2).  The majority of the English colonists did not want to coexist with the "savages" (Mintz, 2003).

These cultural differences between immigrants and Native Americans did not bode well for the Indians and their descendents, as Chief Tecumseh was well aware.  In 1810, he faced Governor W. H. Harrison to bitterly protest the land sales of 1805-06.  He said they were affected by the use of strong liquor, a breach of the Treaty of Greenville.  He refused to enter the Governor's mansion; instead, he said to his tribesmen,

The way, the only way to stop this evil is for the red men to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was at first, and should be now - for it was never divided, but belongs to all.  No tribe has the right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers. . . . Sell a country!  Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth?  Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children? 

            How can we have confidence in the white people?  (Armstrong, 1971, pp. 43‑44)

 

For 400 years, since the first settlers set foot on American soil to the present times, European colonists and later the U.S. government have been trying to educate and assimilate the Indian into European-American culture.  All attempts have failed miserably, because the Indians are fiercely proud of their heritage, culture, and independence.  But it is hard to be proud when you are a conquered people, often living in poverty on reservations, when your history speaks of a free, plentiful, independent existence that no longer exists.

The Indians' past depended upon vast amounts of land to sustain their people.  They needed to travel, hunt, and fish.  All that changed and was gone when the colonists came.  There were too many settlers for the land to sustain all the people on the land, as it had in the past.  This defeat of the Indians, of their culture and way of life, has caused serious debilitating conditions to arise on reservations among the Indian peoples.  But it has not totally defeated their spirit.  They have been finding ways to improve their circumstances.  One manifestation of the Indians' fight for self-preservation and better living conditions has been the establishment of tribal colleges.

 

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