KS History – Group D

blogs about KS history

The History of Haskell University September 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — andyo53 @ 3:38 pm

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 websiteThe 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.

Haskell Institute's girls dormitory, Lawrence, Kansas

Haskell Institute's girls dormitory, Lawrence, Kansas

Haskell Institute laundry and boiler house, Lawrence, Kansas

Haskell Institute laundry and boiler house, Lawrence, Kansas

Haskell Institute Band, Lawrence, Kansas

Haskell Institute Band, Lawrence, Kansas

-Andy White





pictures from http://www.kansasmemory.org


11 Responses to “The History of Haskell University”

  1. Hayley Schehrer Says:

    I found this very interesting because I have driven by Haskell University millions of times but I have never known it’s history. It is shocking to think that these people had given up land with an expectation of an education and this is what they received. It makes me appreciate out education system today and how it does not push a certain view over another and you are allowed to be who you are. I am happy to see that Haskell University has been able to change so drastically over the years into what it has become today.

    -Hayley Schehrer

  2. Ashley Hammond Says:

    The history of Haskell is something that interests me as well. I studied Haskell and other schools that were once for assimilation in another class I have taken. Something that we discussed in the other class is the Native Americans after going through these schools. Many could not get jobs because they were Native Americans. But when they returned home, they were out of place there as well. This just seems so sad to me.

  3. AJ Brenn Says:

    I am currently taking History of the Plains Indians and we have discussed multiple ways that white settlers and the government tried to conform Native Americans to white culture and religion while squashing the Native culture they grew up with. I have very little knowledge of Haskell University’s past, as I just know that it is one of the most important Native American Universities in the United States today. As a native Kansan and someone who went through public schools before coming to KU, it seems that Native American history is not focused on enough in Social Studies and History classes, as most of what I have learned has come at the University. It is very apparent that there is room to improve on History curriculum relating to Native Americans in Kansas public schools, colleges, and Universities.

  4. Rachel Moler Says:

    I actually was considering writing my blog on this very subject. I find it very interesting as well. As AJ commented, it is correct that we do not hear about Native American history so detailed and cut throat. It is sad to think about the life they were forced into and how dehumanizing it must have been to be stripped of one’s history, language and culture. It is also kind of pitiful to think of Kansas as an influential part of the Union and a “free state” only to reject those who come here for safety and shelter. Or in the Native American’s case, forced removal. Anyways, thank you for informational excerpt.

  5. Brittney Visser Says:

    Great post! I had never heard the history of Haskell, nor did I realize the harsh treatment the Native Americans received there. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be forbidden to speak in my language to communicate with my friends and family. Thinking back to when I was younger and how tramatic that would have been to be sent away from my family to this school and then stripped of all things familiar!
    Were all the Indian boarding schools ran in similar fashion?

    • andy Says:

      Hey Brittney,
      From what I understood while researching for this article, all Indian boarding schools of the late 1800’s operated the same way. The positive side to these stories though is that it while the government was trying to assimilate all of these cultures they people became more and more persistent to keep their own tribal culture intact. It caused many inter-tribal bonds that proved to be important to the history of Native Americans in the next century.

  6. shells85 Says:

    I have also found the subject of Native American history to be quite interesting. When I was a little girl my family lived in Arizona, my mother’s first teaching job was on the Apache reservation. It is quite an interesting and sad history, and in many ways time has not healed all the wounds that were inflicted. There are still boarding schools out west, but they are different now, many kids are sent there because their parents cannot take care of them because of alcohol addiction. My mother told me that she had many students, who were Apache, that suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I find it sad that many people don’t seem to care.

  7. kelshill Says:

    Thank you for posting something about Haskell University. I have driven by several times and attended a Haunted Tour a couple of Halloweens ago. I have always wondered how the Unversity got started and the history of it as well. It is amazing to me how harshly not only adult Native Americans were treated, but the children as well. To be stripped of all identity and forced to become part of a new world, would forever change these children. Some of them were probably too young to even remember what their true identity was. Because of our harsh treatment they fit in nowhere. Do you happen to know where other large Native American colleges are located?

  8. Kristen Epps Says:

    Good post! If any of you are interested in the psychological repercussions of this boarding school system, you might like to see a great independent film called “Rabbit Proof Fence.” It addresses the similar system that existed in Australia; here’s the blurb off IMDB… http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252444/plotsummary.

  9. Laura Budder Says:

    All of our boarding schools were just like Haskell. You guys should come visit, it’s really beautiful in the summer and there’s a lot of spirits roaming around. 😉

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