Native American Assimilation into Western Culture Throughout the 1800s and the early 1900s, the American government attempted to assimilate Native American children into the Western culture, with all the best intentions (Marr Intro). Through primary and secondary sources, we learn how this was done and the mistakes they made in doing it. Primary sources, which are documents or other sources of information created at or near the time an event occurred, are an essential part in understanding history.
There are many primary sources in the essay “Assimilation Through Education: Indian Boarding Schools in the Pacific Northwest” by Carolyn J. Marr including: photographs, transcripts, journal entries, and government documents. The use of photographs has many advantages and disadvantages. Photographs are fairly accurate in describing an event. It gives the reader plenty of evidence and a feel for how the subjects were feeling during the event by showing emotions or facial expressions that could not be expressed through written word.
On the other hand, they could be very biased as to show the harshest or best conditions possible. A photo is just a brief snapshot of a moment in time, and does not illustrate a whole event that a diary or journal might tell. Also, a photographer may be biased towards their own personal views, age, religion, social, economic, or political background; all of which may influence what he or she will or won’t photograph. Lastly, it is also not always clear where a photo was taken, why, and by whom. Secondary sources prove to serve a very important role in interpreting history.
They include documents, books, or articles, through interpretations by historians. Some books and documents used in Marr’s essay are: Carey C. Collins’ “Oregon’s Carlisle: Teaching ‘America? at Chemawa Indian School”, Carey C. Collins’ “Through the Lens of Assimilation: Edwin L. Chalcraft and Chemawa Indian School”, and Michael C. Coleman’s American Indian Children at School. These sources explain the government’s efforts to assimilate (the act of becoming part of something) Indians, particularly children, into the melting pot of American society. This took place from the 1800s through the 1920s (Marr Intro).
I believe it was necessary for the government to attempt to introduce Indians into the American culture, but I do not believe they did it correctly. Greatening education, broadening religious and cultural views, and creating strong bonds between other students were some of the advantages of this movement. Kids also received running water, electricity, decent food and clean clothes. Unfortunately, the evil done greatly outweighed the good. They stole children away from their parents and it was done so rapidly, it didn’t allow Indians to try and move themselves and their children into western culture.
Taking away their free will, tearing them away from their parents, offering poor diets, overcrowding schools, poor medical attention, and excessive forced labor by the students proved to be some of the mistakes made by the government’s push into the “American” culture (Marr Part V). The institutions stressed work-related training to benefit the institution rather than the children, similar to slavery. It allowed the institutions to spend less by forcing free labor onto the children in fields such as: farming, cooking, cleaning, blacksmithing, carpentry, etc. Marr Part IV). This reduced the hired work required to run the large institutions. This type program allowed the students to learn trade one needs to survive, but for those who had ambitions to become something more, the institution would not allow it (Marr Part IV). In closing, Native American culture was attacked by our government in an attempt to better their lives. Unfortunately, they provided an atmosphere of slavery and oppression in the most literal interpretation of the words. Works Cited Collins, Carey C. “Oregon’s Carlisle: Teaching ‘America? t Chemawa Indian School,” Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History, Tacoma: Washington State Historical Society, Summer 1998. Collins, Carey C. “Through the Lens of Assimilation: Edwin L. Chalcraft and Chemawa Indian School,” Oregon Historical Quarterly v. 98, no. 14 (Winter 1997-98): 390-425. Coleman, Michael C. American Indian Children at School, 1950-1930. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993. Marr, Carolyn J. “Assimilation Through Education: Indian Boarding Schools in the Pacific Northwest. ” UW Libraries Digital Collections. Web. 09 Sept. 2010. <http://content. lib. washington. edu/aipnw/marr. html>.

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