Guest blogger: Nicohlas Thornton, Fond du Lac Ojibwe School
As I was thinking about what to write my blog post about, I was not really coming up with any good ideas. Then, finally I remembered a book that I read in a college class on Native American History. The book is called Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940, by Brenda J. Child. As you can probably tell by the title this book, it gives a brief history and real life experience of federal boarding school life in the Midwest. I found it to be very interesting so I will do my blog post by giving a brief summary of the book and discuss its usefulness in the classroom.
As much as I am embarrassed to say it, prior to reading this book, I barely knew anything about the federal boarding school chapter of Native American and American history and I don’t think we ever even covered it in any of my high school classes. That is why I found it so interesting and informative. It is a very short read (only about 100 pages), but a lot of useful information is packed in this book. I think one of the most important pieces of this book is that it includes letters from parents, students, and administrators at the Flandreau School and the Haskell Institute to really help you understand what life was like at the boarding schools.
One of the most interesting chapters for me is titled “Homesickness”. This chapter explains how the goal of the schools was to assimilate the students into white American culture and if the schools sent the children back home over the summer, the students would gain back some of their Native culture. It includes countless letters of parents begging for their children to be sent home and the school would either not respond back or say they see no reason to send the students home. The only reason students would be allowed to return home was if the family was struggling and they needed the child to work at home to help them survive. Even in that case, enough money for the round trip travel had to be sent so that they paid for the travel and ensured the students would return to school. It really showed the hardships that the children and families faced during this era.
I have not used this particular book in my classroom with students, but I definitely think it could be useful, especially for older high school students, because of all the primary sources that are included. It is also pretty short which makes it easier to use. Even if you don’t use it in in the classroom it is useful for teachers to read and gain a better understanding of this terrible time in American history. I know it was able to do that for me.
Child, Brenda J. Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940.
Lincoln: U of Nebraska, 2012. Print.