The Atlantic

The Schools That Tried—But Failed—to Make Native Americans Obsolete

“Education was something that was done to us, not something that was provided for us.”
Source: Kristina Barker

Two centuries ago, Congress passed a law that kicked into high gear the U.S. government’s campaign to assimilate Native Americans to Western culture—to figuratively “kill the Indian,” as one general later put it, and “save the man.”

The Civilization Fund Act of 1819, passed 200 years ago this week, had the of infusing the country’s indigenous people with “good moral character” and vocational skills. The law tasked Christian missions and the federal government with teaching young indigenous Americans subjects ranging from reading to math, eventually leading to a network of boarding schools designed to carry out this charge. The act was, in effect, an effort to stamp out America’s original cultural identity and replace it with one that Europeans had, not long before, imported to the continent. Over time, countless Native American children.

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