Seeking to educate increasing numbers of Indian children at lower cost, the federal government established two other types of schools: the reservation boarding school and day schools. Reservation boarding schools had the advantage of being closer to Indian communities and as a result had lower transportation costs. Contact between students and their families was somewhat restricted as students remained at the school for eight to nine months of the year. Relatives could visit briefly at prescribed times. School administrators worked constantly to keep the students at school and eradicate all vestiges of their tribal cultures. Day schools, which were the most economical, usually provided only a minimal education. They worked with the boarding schools by transferring students for more advanced studies.
In 1998 Heroes & Cool Kids started in just three school districts – Glen Rock, Perth Amboy and Monmouth New Jersey. To date, twenty eight hundred high school “heroes” are reaching over 22,000 elementary school youngsters. At least 10 new schools will join us in the fall. Former professional athletes and potential teen leaders attend conferences at Bergen Community College and/or Vonage on how to become mentors in their schools. The teens then, throughout the school year, November to May, mentor middle school students on important life skills. These skills include sportsmanship, conflict resolution and positive lifestyle choices highlighting drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention.
A standardized curriculum for Indian schools emphasized vocational training. Estelle Reel, who served as Superintendent of Indian Education from 1898 to 1910, was a strong advocate of this curriculum which gave primary importance to learning manual skills. No amount of book learning, she felt, could result in economic independence for Indian people. Others would claim that by limiting education to manual training the educators were condemning Indian people to permanent inequality. A former student at the Fort Spokane boarding school described typical work done by the boys:
Fort Spokane Boarding School opened in 1900 with an enrollment of 83 pupils and grew to 200 by 1902. It operated only until 1914 after which time the children attended day schools closer to their homes. Similarly, the military facility at Fort Simcoe became a school for the Yakama and their neighbors.
Not all experiences at the boarding schools were negative for all students. In hindsight, former students acknowledge benefits they gained from their education, and there were happy moments for some. Sports, games and friendships are examples of experiences remembered in a positive light.
By the 1920s the Bureau of Indian Affairs had changed its opinion about boarding schools, responding to complaints that the schools were too expensive and that they encouraged dependency more than self-sufficiency. By 1923, the majority of Indian children nationwide attended public schools. A report on Indian education issued in 1928 revealed glaring deficiencies in the boarding schools, including poor diet, overcrowding, below-standard medical service, excessive labor by the students and substandard teaching. The 1930s witnessed many changes in federal Indian policy, among which was a shift in educational philosophy. Classroom lessons could now reflect the diversity of Indian cultures. States assumed more control over Indian education as more children enrolled in public schools. Most of the boarding schools were closed by this time, Tulalip in 1932 and Cushman in 1920, leaving Chemawa as the sole government boarding school remaining in the Pacific Northwest.
Carolyn J. Marr is an anthropologist and photographs librarian at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, Washington. She has worked with the Chehalis, Suquamish, Tulalip and Makah Tribes on projects relating to photographs and oral history as well as material culture, especially basketry and textiles. Several exhibits have resulted from her work, including one on the boarding school experience in western Washington. Publications include, "Portrait in Time: Photographs of the Makah by Samuel G. Morse, 1897-1903," and numerous articles in Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Columbia Magazine and other journals.