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The Struggle for Self-Determination
Digital History ID 717

Author:   Luther Standing Chief Bear
Date:1879

Annotation: Luther Standing Bear was in the first class at the Carlisle Indian School, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Built in a former military barracks by Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt, Carlisle served as an important model for Indian education during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As Standing Bear, a Sioux, explains, Carlisle's goal was to strip Indians of their cultural heritage and educate them in the ways of whites. During the summer, Carlisle's students lived with white farm families.


Document: It did not occur to me at that time that I was going away to learn the ways of the white man. My idea was that I was leaving the reservation and going to stay away long enough to do some brave deed, and then come home again alive. If I could just do that, then I knew my father would be so proud of me....

One day when we came to school there was a lot of writing on one of the blackboards. We did not know what it meant, but our interpreter came into the room and said, “Do you see all these marks on the blackboard? Well, each word is a white man's name. They are going to give each one of you one of these names by which you will hereafter be known”....

Then the teacher took a piece of white tape and wrote the name on it. Then she cut off a length of the tape and sewed it on the back of the boy's shirt. Then that name was erased from the board. There was no duplication of names in the first class at Carlisle School!...

Next we had to learn to write our names...

Next the teacher wrote out the alphabet on my slate and indicated to me that I was to take the slate to my room and study....

How lonesome I felt for my father and mother!....

Next, we heard that we were soon to have white men's clothes....

The clothes were some sort of dark heavy gray goods, consisting of coat, pants, and vest. We were also given a dark woolen shirt, a cap, a pair of suspenders, socks, and heavy farmer's boots.

Source: Chief Luther Standing Bear, My People, the Sioux (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1928), 128-49.

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