Taken: Native Boarding Schools in America

Taken: Native Boarding Schools in America is a 9-part series that sheds light on an undertold part of American history: when native children were forcibly taken from their communities by agents and sent to government-funded schools. These schools were modeled after the educational curriculum of Captain William Henry Pratt. You may know him by his famous quote, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The goal of Pratt’s pioneer Carlisle Indian Boarding School, and the hundreds of schools that sprung up after it, was to “civilize” Native Americans–or make them more like European Americans. 

For over a century, these schools used intimidation, labor, and abuse to eradicate Native language and culture and separate children as young as six from their parents and communities. It’s a history the country is only now beginning to take responsibility for.

Episode 9:

Buried Apologies and a Path Forward

Disinterment and repatriation is important work, but it’s only just begun, and it’s not the only work that needs to be done to acknowledge and atone for the history of Indigenous boarding schools. The Federal Government has not yet provided a centralized place for survivors or descendants of survivors of Federal Indian boarding schools, or their families, to voluntarily detail their experiences in the boarding school system. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Episode 8:

Barriers to a Better Education

By the 1960s and early 1970s, activist movements across the country had begun to call for better national policies to support minority groups and the government made attempts to some of the wrongs of the past. But it didn’t always lead to success. So let’s dive in, and talk about the gap between the government’s policy intentions for Native American communities and its not-so-effective execution. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Episode 7:

The Pendulum Swings Wildly

On this episode of Here’s Where It Gets Interesting, we explore an explosive pendulum swing in the mindset of the American people, when the government basically told Native communities: “No more interventions. You’re on your own!” The ominous-sounding Termination Policy fundamentally changed the relationship between the Federal Government and Native Tribes, again, and its reverberations can be felt even today. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Episode 6:

Beyond the Mainland

Explore the Native boarding school systems in Canada, and in our 49th and 50th states, Alaska and Hawaii. The US wasn’t the only nation setting up mandatory residential schools for Indigenous populations, and in the beginning, many of these programs mirrored those of the US with a focus to “civilize” Indigenous children. We’re not referring to merely hundreds of students who were taken from their families, but hundreds of thousands spanning decades. With many students unable to return home and schools operating “in loco parentis,” it would be years before the truth of these atrocities would come to light. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Episode 5:

Less Education, More Forced Labor

In 1880, Richard Pratt opened the Carlisle School’s Outing Program. While the program had a rocky start, Pratt chose to expand the following year and eventually the program was practiced all over the country. Pratt framed the programs as an opportunity to give boarding school students real-world experience and cultivate practical skills they learned at school, but in reality, the Outing Programs were nothing more than indentured servitude. By the 1930s, most programs were so corrupt that they were discontinued. Were the programs nixed due to a sudden change of heart? No, it was the result of an independent research organization and their publication of the Meriam Report. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Episode 4:

Death in the Schools

In 1908, an anthropologist traveled to the Western states to examine an outbreak of tuberculosis and found that 20 percent–or one in every five–of the residents of Indian Country had contracted the disease. In an effort to contain it, authorities asked the anthropologist to trace the cause of the outbreak and he found it – in the Native American boarding schools. Educating native children was an enterprise that quickly turned lethal as epidemics and contagious illnesses swept through the schools. Sickness infected and killed scores of students. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Episode 3:

Taken By Force

As the idea that the best way to handle the “Indian Problem” in America was to civilize their youth took hold in the late 19th century, the amount of boarding schools grew rapidly. But the government couldn’t rely on Native tribes to send their children to schools willingly, so they had to accomplish it another way: by force. Attendance became mandatory, and children were rounded up and sent to live at boarding schools, sometimes hundreds of miles away. They were cut off from their homes, families, and culture… and forced assimilation began. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Episode 2:

Shaved Heads and Stolen Lands

Richard Pratt’s boarding schools for Native American children didn’t just materialize out of thin air. The idea that it was the job of the government to try to assimilate Native Americans into European settler culture had been around since the first Europeans stepped foot onto North American soil. So today, let’s jump back in time and connect the dots from the Constitution to forced education. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Episode 1:

Pratt's Devastating Experiment

In Taken: Native Boarding Schools in America where we dive into the complex history of the United States Government's intervention of Indigenous tribes and culture. We’re going to go beyond the Trail of Tears and into the federally mandated programs that took Native children from their homes and placed them in boarding schools. It’s a history of erasure, dominance, violence, and trauma–some of it so concealed by the Government that the Department of the Interior is still investigating it today. Read the show notes.

Listen on your favorite podcast platform: