American Indian Boarding School Children: “Kill the Indian, Save the Child.”

American Indian Boarding School Children

Literature, both fictional and biographical, is full of stories about boarding schools and the damage they have caused. In many cases the damage is done by one person, or in an isolated situation. But when the Indian boarding schools are studied a very disturbing pattern comes to light. It is the only time in American history when children were legally required to attend a boarding school hundreds of miles away from home. Carlisle Industrial Boarding School was the first and worst, and set the pattern for the rest.

When considering the negative conditions deposited in the psyche of the Indian child I will share a story I heard, that I am sure was one of thousands like it. A child had been removed to a boarding school at the age of eight. Eight years later, after having no contact with his family because of distance and boarding school dictates, the child became a young man and was allowed to return to his village for a visit. An elderly couple met him at the train depot greeting him in their Native language. The young man did not know who they were nor could he understand what they were saying. This elderly couple were his parents.

Dr. Eduardo Durand refers to the reservations and boarding school conditions as instigating “psychecide.”

Although most Indian boarding schools have since closed, the repercussions can still be observed today as the genetic memory of these traumatic experiences play out through the generations that follow.

The book Dancing My Dream records one Native man’s journey to healing from the damage of boarding schools, forced relocations and other historical trauma. Dancing My Dream by Warren Petoskey can be purchased through this web site or through

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