Indian Boarding School

In 1870, the U.S. Congress appropriated funds to initiate an Indian Educational system in response to the widely held belief that the best way to assist Indian peoples was to assimilate their children. In the words of Capt. Richard Pratt, Director of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, the goal of most Indian boarding schools was to “kill the Indian in him and save the man.” This system was a turning point in American Indian policy and in the lives of Indian children and their families. Establishment of boarding schools resulted in thousands of Indian children, including the very young, separated from their families, often for years.  The schools also exposed students to harsh discipline and disease.  However,  many Indian students returned home with skills which helped them speak for their tribes and become leaders.  Indian boarding schools--the products of European American exploration and perception--represent a particular kind of encounter and exchange between two cultures.


Secondary Sources


Child, Brenda, Boarding School Seasons: American Indian families, 1900-1940, University of Nebraska Press.

Coleman, Michael C., “Motivations of Indian Children at Missionary and U.S. Government Schools, 1860-1918: A Study Through Published Reminiscenses,” Montana The Magazine of Western History 40(1) 1990 30-45.


Iverson, Peter,  “We are Still Here” American Indians in the Twentieth Century, University of Arizona, 1994, 19-26.


Katanski, Ameila, Learning to Write “Indian:” The Boarding School Experience and American Indian Literature, University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.


McBride, Dorothy, “Hoosier Schoolmaster Among the Sioux,” Montana The Magazine of Western History 20(4) 1970, 78-95.


Szasz, Margaret C., “Listening to the Native Voice: American Indian Schooling in the Twentieth Century,” Montana The Magazine of Western History 39(3) 1989, 42-53.


Primary Sources at the Montana Historical Society


OH 2219, Fort Peck Boarding School Interviews, Fort Peck Community College


OH 1338, Corrine Deriana interview, 1990 Aug. 06


OH 1226 Joseph Medicine Crow interview, 1989 Jan. 30


See MHS Research Center Catalog for entire list of available Oral Histories collected during Native American Educators Oral History Project, search term “Boarding School.”  


Primary and Secondary Sources on the Internet


Montana: Stories of the Land (Helena, MT, 2008), 222-226 (good brief background)


Zitkala-Sa, Impressions of an Indian Childhood, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library∂=all


Zitkala-Sa [aka Gertrude Simmons Bonnin], American Indian Stories,  Washington: Hayworth Publishing House, 1921


To Learn a New Way, User’s Guide, MT Historical Society Educational Trunk


Assimilation through Education Primary Source Set (Library of Congress)



Vertical Files at the Montana Historical Society


See files on specific Schools and locations.