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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1892
61st ([1892])

The care of Indian schools,   pp. 610-618 PDF (4.3 MB)


Page 614

614                  CARE OF INDIAN SCHOOLS. 
over their deluded patients and manage to secure from them large pay for
very 
little service. They naturally dread the inroads of education, as it is always
followed, of necessity, by a lessening of their influence and a cutting off
of their 
resources. 
Then, too, the Indians are very superstitious in regard to death. The custom
obtains very widely among them of destroying even the house in which death
occurs as well as all that the house contains. When, therefore, a child has
died 
in school, there at once arises in their minds a strong prejudice against
the 
school building and a superstitious dread of sending any more children to
the 
place where death occurred. Ignoring the fact that a much larger proportion
of children die at home than at school they insist, with strange lack of
logic, 
that the school is responsible for the deaths which occur there. 
The affection which Indian parents have for their children is strong, and
leads them naturally to desire to keep them at home unless it can be made
evi- 
dent that it is for their decided advantage to have them taken away. In most
cases this leads them to protest against the effort to take their children
off to 
school, and if necessary to resist it by force. 
To this it should be added that the minds of multitudes of Indians have been
poisoned against the public schools by statements that they are hostile to
their 
religious faith ; that they are hot-beds of corruption; that immoral practices
are 
common; that their children are mistreated; that they will return to them
de- 
praved: and that if they die in the Government schools while away from home
their souls will go to perdition. 
It is also true that false stories circulate among the Indians, frequently
ema- 
nating from those who have been at school and have run away, regarding de-
privations, suffering, and cruelties alleged to be practiced upon pupils
by the 
school authorities. 
When, therefore, school supervisors and others delegated by the Indian Office
to gather up children for Indian schools go among them they are met at once
by these various objections and protests. 
Another more serious matter which is encountered is the condition of the
health of Indian children. It is not generally known to the public, but the
fact 
is painfully patent to the Indian Office that there is among Indian children
a 
vast amount of inherited disease, and in some tribes healthy children are
ap- 
parently the exception rather than the rule. Owing to the prejudice above
re- 
ferred to of the Indians against schools on account of sickness and death
within 
them, it has b -en thought desirable to exclude those who are manifestly
unfit 
physically for the strain of school life. Consequently, a rigid medical examina-
tion is insisted upon before the children are received as pupils. This reveals
the existence of disease and physical weakness to such an extent as to materi-
ally decrease the percentage of children of suitable age who have the necessary
physical qualifications for enrollment in school. 
Another difficulty is the early marriages which are common among Indians.
Girls especially are frequently allowed to marry at 14 years of age or even
younger, so that it is exceedingly difficult to procure girls of this age
or to keep 
them in school beyond this period when they have been admitted at an earlier
age. One of the most beneficial results of Indian education as at present
carried 
on is the rescuing of young girls from early marriages and the retaining
of them 
in school until they have reached a suitable age and until both their physical
condition and their mental training has been carried far enough to fit them
in 
some degree for the burdens of married life. 
In many cases Indian children of very tender years are required to work,
and 
their services in the present state of life among Indians are absolutely
neces- 
sary to keep the older people from suffering. I found, for instance, among
the 
Navajoes that the sheep are often guarded by little boys and girls. I saw
one 
day a boy certainly not over 6 years of age who was being trained by his
father 
to care for their sheep, and I saw on another occasion a large flock under
the 
care of little girls that apparently were not over 12 years old. In many
other 
cases I came into personal contact with this state of things, in which little
chil- 
dren were required to work for the suppopt of the family. Parents, especially
those who are old or infirm or unwilling themselves to work, are very loath
to 
allow their children to leave home to go to school and thus be deprived of
their 
services. 
When we add to the difficulties that have been mentioned the fact that In-
dians areloath to have their children subjected to the ordinary restraints
of school 
life, such as requiring them to bathe and take proper care of their persons,
and to 
devote themselves regularly to stated employments, and when they protest


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