Commitment to an insane asylum would be a horrific experience for any Indian, but fortunately that happened to only a few within the population as a whole. What happened far more often, and affected more people, was the BIA’s invasion into Indian family life.
After the Civil War, the government began forcing children to attend boarding schools many miles from home. The intent was to “assimilate” the children into the white world by taking them away from their families, cultures, and customs. Children were forced to give up their native clothing and wear the dresses and pants of their new culture; boys had their hair cut. The children were then forbidden to speak their native languages, and were often given new “white” names.
The first off-reservation school for Indians, Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was founded by Army captain Richard Pratt November 1, 1878.