Teaching Guide: Exploring American Indian Boarding Schools

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, American Indian Boarding Schools, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Compare the “before-and-after-education” photos. What do these images say about the mission or goals of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and the experience of its students?

  2. Using the vocational school catalog from New Mexico, identify how the classes offered might affect Navajo artistic practice?

  3. Examine the items in the set and describe some religious images or references you find. Why do you think Christianity was a crucial aspect of the boarding school movement?

  4. The Word Carrier newspaper describes what it takes to be a “good Indian.” What do you think that meant to a Native American reader? What do you think that meant to a white teacher at a boarding school?

Classroom activities

The Word Carrier newspaper mentions that some Native Americans, after attending boarding school, chose to return to their traditional way of life, while others adhered to the roles they learned in school. Write a diary entry of a Native American student at boarding school considering his/her options. What are some reasons this young person might choose either of these options? What are some challenges, tensions, fears, etc. he or she might face leaving for school and returning home?

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