I am interested in the history of Indigenous People of Kansas so I chose to expand on the Indian boarding schools mentioned in lecture. My resources were the Haskell University website, The Organization of American Historians website, The Brown Quarterly Publication and Cultural Survival, a group dedicated to the rights of Indigenous Peoples across the globe.
Many Lawrencians are familiar with Haskell University located just South of 23rd Street at 155 Indian Avenue, but not many are aware of its unusual and ominous past. It is now regarded as one of the premier Native American colleges in the country, but upon its creation 125 years ago, it was an agricultural boarding school for Native Americans. It was originally known as the United States Indian Industrial Training School. The USIITS opened its doors in 1884 to an enrollment of only a few dozen, but in the coming months grew into a boarding school of several hundred Native American students. It was initially opened by the government as part of a fulfillment of treaties which promised compensation for land confiscated from Native Americans in the form of education.
The students of Haskell were stripped of their cultural and spiritual identities, forced to speak English, abide a strict uniformed dress code and regimented into military style daily routines. The use of their native languages was forbidden. Proponents of Haskell’s methods in the late 1880’s would have argued they produced a more civilized, intelligent populace of Native Americans, but in actuality it was attempted cultural genocide. Full scale assimilation was the goal of the early years of Haskell, wrapped in a disguise of government aid. Language bears culture. Without this native, familiar form of communication the school officials hoped to redirect the priorities, interest and belief of the young men and woman enrolled at Haskell to a more Western, Christian world view.
Within the first winter of operation, Haskell’s graveyard (which is still intact and easily visible today) was filled with nine children. Before the turn of the century approximately fifty more graves were made due to improper health care, psychological trauma, poor diet and rampant disease. The children did however manage to keep many of their languages and cultural practices intact in private, using each other as a “underground” support system during this overwhelmingly traumatic time. Historians agree that this harrowing time in Native history initiated a sense of unity throughout many tribes that proved to be vital in the 20th century.
Throughout the next century the face of Haskell would change as secondary and college curriculum’s were added. School policy became less barbaric and more focused to a culturally encouraging environment. This overhaul is majorly credited to the schools first Native American superintendent, Dr. Roe Cloud. A dormitory is named after Dr. Roe Cloud on campus today.
Haskell University is now celebrating is 125th anniversary with events in recognition of its tremendous growth over the last century.
pictures from http://www.kansasmemory.org