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“All That Is Passed Away”: A Young Indian Praises U.S. Government Policy in the Late 19th century

Federal officials and reformers regarded education as the linchpin in the government’s efforts to Americanize and assimilate Native Americans, which became the dominant federal policy starting in 1887. They placed the greatest stock in off-reservation boarding schools, because they removed Indian youths from their home environment and culture. The U.S. Training and Industrial School founded in 1879 at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, was the model for most of these schools. Ellis B. Childers, a Creek Indian student at Carlisle, wrote approvingly in his school newspaper about the visit of a large delegation of educated Indians to the school in 1882.

Inspector Haworth with a large delegation of Indians visited us on Easter week on their way back home from Washington. We were sorry that the school-room work and shops were all closed. Although they went through the shops and saw what the boys have been making but they did not see them at work.

The same evening when they arrived the boys had dress parade. At 7 o’clock the school had an entertainment in the chapel. After it was over Inspector Haworth asked some of the delegates to say something to the school. Kihega the father of Charles Kihega the Editor of the SCHOOL NEWS made the first speech. He made a very nice speech.

And among other things he said to the children: “Here are people trying to teach you. You must try to learn and when you come back home your people will be glad to see you and what you learn will be a benefit to them.” When he said, “Here are people” he meant our kind teachers who are trying their best to teach us to live a civilized life.

There were four others made little speeches to us. They all spoke so good that Capt. Pratt said at the close. “I could sit and listen all night to such good speeches as these.” Henry Jones the interpreter said something before it was closed. He is an Indian but he has learned enough English so as to interpret for his people.

Among other things he said, “If we Indians are willing to learn we can learn. We can learn as well as our friends, the whites. We can do just as well as the white people. If we try. We have muscles, brains and eyes just the same as the whites. If we cultivate our brains and muscles and eyes we can do just the same as they.”

And then closed his speech by saying. "Don’t look back, all that is passed away. This country through here is all improved. You saw when you were coming, cities, railroads, houses, manufactories.We have had many Indian delegates, but those were the best delegates we have had.


Source: Ellis B. Childers, “Responsive and Resistant Students,” part 1, School News, (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.) vol. 2, no. 11 (April 1882). Reprinted in Peter Nabokov, ed., Native American Testimony: A Chronicle of Indian-White Relations from Prophecy to the Present, 1492–1992 (New York: Viking Penguin, 1991), 218–220.