How Boarding Schools Tried to ‘Kill the Indian’ Through Assimilation
“Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”
That was the mindset under which the U.S. government forced tens of thousands of Native American children to attend “assimilation” boarding schools in the late 19th century. Decades later, those words — delivered in a speech by U.S. cavalry captain Richard Henry Pratt, who opened the first such school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania — have come to symbolize the brutality of the boarding school system.
The history of this forced assimilation is far from settled. On August 7, 2017, the U.S. Army began exhuming the graves of three children from the Northern Arapaho tribe who had died at Pratt’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the 1880s. The children’s names were Little Chief, Horse, and Little Plume — names they were forbidden to use at the school.