History, Department of
Indian Boarding Schools in Comparative Perspective: The Removal of Indigenous Children in the United States and Australia, 1880-1940
Date of this Version
This essay compares the forced removal of American Indian and Aboriginal children in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, arguing that governments intentionally removed indigenous children to institutions as acts of colonial control, not assimilation. Since colonial governments in the United States and Australia did not value traditional cultures of American Indians and Aborigines, they sought to destroy them. The essay argues that non-Natives purposely removed indigenous children to make them "useful" to non-Natives. As a result, indigenous children's institutions taught a curriculum designed to be of benefit to employers who could exploit Native labor. Every state in Australia had a policy of removing children of lighter skin, the mixed-bloods or halfcastes that white people feared might threaten the racial and social order. Government officials in both countries created myths about the removal of Native children, saying they acted out of concern, kindness, and Christian duty. In reality, governments actively and aggressively destroyed families, clans, kinships, and cultures as acts of colonialism.
Additional note from the author: This article has benefited greatly from my long-term intellectual collaboration and friendship with Australian historian Victoria Haskins. This essay builds, in part, on our joint article, "Stolen Generations and Vanishing Indians: The Removal of Indigenous Children as a Weapon of War in the United States and Australia, 1870-1940," in Children and War, ed. James Marten (New York: New York University Press, 2002), 227-241, which is available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/historyfacpub/10
Published in Boarding School Blues: Revisiting American Indian Educational Experiences, edited and with an introduction by Clifford E. Trafzer, Jean A. Keller, and Lorene Sisquoc. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006. Copyright © 2006 Clifford E. Trafzer, Jean A. Keller, and Lorene Sisquoc. Used by permission. http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/bookinfo/5068.html