Essay on Indian Residential Schools
Number of words: 1160
In the book “we are Sorry” by Thomas King, it is evident that the Indian residential schools were based on racism, with the Western culture being emphasized. At the same time, the Indians were striving to be Indians (uphold their Indian culture). It was a real struggle for the Indians to uphold their culture, especially in an environment where the Western is being emphasized. The students in the schools were being forced to observe the Western culture and abandon the Indian culture. The Western culture seemed to have stronger grounds and was more attractive. With some administrative personnel in the schools fighting to promote the Western culture and kill the Indian culture, it was difficult for the Indians to uphold their own culture.
“By the late nineteenth century, the Indian Problem was still a problem. Yes, Indians had been defeated militarily. Yes, most of the tribes had been safely locked up on reservations and reserves. Yes, Indians were dying off in satisfying numbers from disease and starvation. Yes, all of this was encouraging. But, at the same time, Indians were still being Indians. How could this happen? How could Native cultures hold their own against the potency of western civilization? Or to put this question in the vernacular, why would anyone prefer a horse when they could have a 1957 Chevrolet two-door convertible with a 283 horse-power Super Turbo V8?” (King 107).
“Unless, of course, you’re a Ford person.” (King 107).
In the above quote, King Thomas argues that Indians were ready to maintain their culture (which is referred to as a horse in this quote) by rejecting western civilization and culture. Western civilization was emphasized and promoted in Indian residential schools run by the whites, dominated by racism. In this case, racism was in the form of the whites preferring their western culture and trying to impose it on the natives by bringing out the Native culture in them. It goes with no say that the culture of the west wasn’t in any way better than the Indian culture, which Indians embraced regardless of their conditions.
“Richard Pratt was wrong. As it turned out, if you killed the Indian, you killed the Indian. A great many intelligent and compassionate people have called residential schools a national tragedy. And they were. But perhaps” “tragedy” “is the wrong term. It suggests that the consequences of residential schools were unintended and undesired, a difficult argument to make since, as Ward Churchill points out, the schools were national policy.” (King 120).
In the above quote, it was self-contradictory whether the schools and the aspect of imposing western culture on natives and removing the Indian culture from the natives, was the right or wrong thing for the Indians. All in all, King concludes that it was a disaster for the Indians. Ironically, something which posed a danger to Indians was made a national policy. All in all, deriving Indian culture from the natives made a negative impact on them since they were forced into it unwillingly. Also, they abandoned some of their local aspects and replaced them with western practices taught in the Indian native school. This did not help the Indians in any way, and instead, it “killed” them in the name of saving them.
“So, I’ve got it right, while North America is reluctant to support the economic” “incompetence” “of Native people, it is more than willing to throw money at the incompetence of corporations. And why not? After all, if we’ve learned nothing in the last century, we should have learned that government support of big business is capitalism’s only hope.” (King 125).
I this, the author (King) tries to show how the government didn’t support the native Indians because the Indians were believed to be competent. Yet, they supported the corporates that the Westerns owned, despite showing a great deal of incompetence. This said, incompetent natives were not worth the support by the government, but incompetent corporates were worth the support. That fore means the real reason for the government not supporting the native Indians was not the incompetence, but the fact that they weren’t Westerns; hence the government support was racial. By supporting the corporates, the government would support capitalism which would benefit more rich Western people but not the Indian natives.
“There was a great deal that I disliked about the school and not much that I remember with any fondness. But the one thing I do remember clearly from the two years I spent at Christian Brothers was the feeling of isolation and the sense of loss and abandonment. I knew my mother believed that I would get a good education, and I knew she wanted the best for me, and all I wanted to do was come home. The school was, at its best, a cold, dead place. I have tried to forget about the experience but researching Native residential schools for this book has caused those memories to seep to the surface once again, and they taste just as bitter now as they did then. My mother was at home. My brother was at home. My grandmother was there, and so were my cousins and my aunts and uncles. For the two years I was at the school, I couldn’t help but think that I had done something wrong, something very wrong that the only solution had been exile.” (King 112).
This illustrates the state of the schools that Native Indians attended and the conditions in the Indian residential schools. The author attended a school in California, but according to the way he describes it, the conditions there were not any better compared to other Indian residential schools; no wonder, as much as he tried to forget the two years’ experience, he had at the school, researching the Indian residential schools reminded him of it. The school was believed to offer a good education. Still, the experience there was otherwise, to an extent where even if the author knew that his mother wanted the best for him, he at some point thought that being there was a kind of punishment for something wrong he did. This illustrates that the school was good for the Westerns, but for the Native Indians, it was otherwise. The treatment given to Indians was cold, and it felt like abandonment.
In conclusion, it is clear that the western civilization was a tragedy to Indians, and it did not bring any good to them. It was being taught in school with pathetic conditions, like overcrowded dormitories, where diseases were rampant, and the worst was that the children did not receive enough education. Even though the whites claimed that the civilization was good for Indians, it did bring adverse impacts to the natives and did not help them in any way.
King, Thomas. The inconvenient Indian illustrated: A curious account of native people in North America. Doubleday Canada, 2017.