Tag Archives: Tulalip Indian School

Irresponsible and Unaccountable

Lee Moorhouse Was an Indian Agent for the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Lee Moorhouse Was an Indian Agent for the Umatilla Indian Reservation

The United States government always knew that native peoples were important–whether as friends or foes. Early federal practice was to interact with tribes as the country would with other independent nations, but this soon proved cumbersome and restrictive for the domestic policy U.S. leaders wanted to pursue. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (known more generally as the Indian Office or Office of Indian Affairs) shifted its role from negotiating with Indian nations to simply enforcing its will on them.

In 1849, Congress transferred the BIA from the War Department to the Department of the Interior and began to greatly increase its intrusiveness into native affairs. Tribes which had been removed to reservations and forced to farm arid, nonproductive land, soon faced extreme poverty. The BIA distributed food and supervised many services on reservations, but unscrupulous agents took advantage of the people they were supposed to help. Many accusations of fraud and abuse hit the agency, which never suffered a loss of power even after investigations proved many accusations to be well-founded.

Sioux Indian Women Receiving Rations, Pine Ridge Reservation, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

Sioux Indian Women Receiving Rations, Pine Ridge Reservation, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

Tulalip Indian School Learning Modern Farming Methods, 1912, photo by Ferdinand Brady, courtesy californiaindianeducation.org

Tulalip Indian School Learning Modern Farming Methods, 1912, photo by Ferdinand Brady, courtesy californiaindianeducation.org

Eventually the BIA became responsible for Indian schools, the issues involved in allotting land, all the contracts associated with providing supplies and service to Indians, and even with  providing justice. Tribal governments were weakened and shunted aside, giving the BIA and particularly its Indian agents dramatic power on reservations. Needless to say, there were agents who did not hesitate to use their power for selfish ends, rather than for protecting people who had been stripped of their own power and rights.

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Jobs for Indians

Pueblo Indians Working in the Indian Service School, Taos, New Mexico, courtesy Library of Congress

When Dr. Harry Hummer found himself understaffed as a result of the manpower shortage created by WWI, he asked the Indian Office to approve higher wages to help him fill positions. (See last post.) Otherwise, he would have to look at hiring Indian workers. For him, Indian staff was a last resort; for the Indian Service, hiring Native American workers was becoming much more commonplace. One of the most important reasons for hiring Native Americans was the hope that it would make the process of assimilation (submerging Indians into white culture as a way of “killing the Indian” without actual bloodshed) quicker and easier. Indians’ employment within the Indian Service itself seemed a perfect way to give Native Americans a stake in white culture and for them to serve as role models for others on their reservations.

Before the Civil War, not many positions were filled by Native Americans, but the government pushed employment for them after the war. Employment within the Indian Service’s education department went from 15 percent in 1888 to 45 percent in 1899. By 1912, Native American employees made up nearly 30 percent of all regular employees in the Indian Service, not just in its education department. (There aren’t statistics that break down employment in every job category for this period.) Teachers were still mainly white, but the number of Native American teachers had risen from 0 in 1888 to 50 in 1905.

Yakama Indian Employees and School Children, Fort Simcoe, Washington, circa 1888, courtesy Library of Congress

Hospital Staff, Tulalip Indian School, circa 1910, courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collection Division

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Attendants Also Drown in Detail

Hospital Staff, Tulalip Indian School, 1912, courtesy Library of Congress

Dr. Hummer found it difficult to keep good help at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians. Though part of the problem resulted from Hummer’s bad temper and difficult personality, another part lay in the nature of the work. Attendants in particular had a hard time. They were supposed to be on duty from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., though on alternating nights they were allowed to leave at 6:00 p.m. However, they couldn’t leave the premises without Hummer’s permission.

Attendants had a detailed list of 36 specific duties, though they were supposed to do just about anything required of them. A new patient always presented additional work. Attendants were to  conduct new patients to their wards and search them for valuables and weapons, make a note of all their clothing, mark the pieces, and then take on the care of the patients’ clothing. They were also to bathe the new patient upon admittance and examine him or her for vermin, marks, or bruises.

The next post will discuss attendants’ daily duties.

 

Staff of Arizona State Asylum, 1914

Stewards and Nurses, Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital, Detroit circa 1890-1901

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Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic–Not

The BIA, of course, knew what was best for Indian children–vocational training that would help them become useful members of society. Before they began their lessons, though, students had a host of chores to perform (cooking, cleaning, weeding the garden) that helped keep the school running.

After chores were out of the way, the children had a chance to learn academics like English, music and U.S. history. Children also participated in sports like football and baseball, which many enjoyed. However, they marched to class, marched to their meals, marched to inspections and roll calls, marched to wherever they needed to go, and always by the regimented ringing of a bell to tell them when to go.

Since the government considered education a primary way to help its Indians wards earn a living, the emphasis was put on vocational training. Girls learned nursing and office work, while boys learned animal husbandry, carpentry, blacksmithing, or shop. In addition to formal classes, students swept and scrubbed, painted, sewed, milked cows, maintained gardens and buildings, and performed an abundance of unpaid labor.

Chiricahua Apaches Four Months After Arriving at Carlisle Indian School, 1886, courtesy Library of Congress

Chiricahua Apaches Four Months After Arriving at Carlisle Indian School, 1886, courtesy Library of Congress

Wood Chopping at Tulalip Indian School, circa 1912

Wood Chopping at Tulalip Indian School, circa 1912

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A New Life

Graduating Class, Carlisle Indian School, 1894, lcourtesy Library of Congress

Graduating Class, Carlisle Indian School, 1894, courtesy Library of Congress

A host of cruel practices were committed in the name of “civilizing” Indians. Though many children endured a hardscrabble life growing up on reservations, many others went to government boarding schools. Sometimes children were forcibly taken from their parents and put on trains without any preparation for leaving.

When they reached their schools, children were both brainwashed and miserably treated, because boarding schools had a mandate to cut the ties students felt to their homes and families.  They were told that their race was inferior to the white race, that their practices were savage, and that even their religion was worthless.

Children were often not allowed to go home to visit their families. The schools were purposely far away from reservations so that it would be a great hardship for families to visit their children. By the time some of the students came home, they had forgotten how to speak their own language.

Boys often wore uniforms and learned to march. Showing homesickness was forbidden. Letters were sometimes intercepted and destroyed or censored. Runaways were a problem, so many children were locked in their rooms at night, or their windows were nailed shut.

Children who conformed to the new way of living  were called “good Indians.” Those who resisted, ran away, spoke their native language, or complained were called “bad Indians.”

Indian Children on Flathead Reservation, 1907, courtesy Library of Congress

Indian Children on Flathead Reservation, 1907, courtesy Library of Congress


Three Lakota Boys Arriving at Carlisle, courtesy National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian

Three Lakota Boys Arriving at Carlisle, courtesy National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian


The Same Three Boys Beginning Civilized Life at Carlisle, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian

The Same Three Boys Beginning Civilized Life at Carlisle, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian

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