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Scanned-Digitized Version
Thomas (Tom) R. Hopkins

Original Citation
Meriam, Lewis. THE PROBLEM OF INDIAN ADMINISTRATION. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1928, 872 pp.


Reservation Boarding Schools. Many of the statements just made with regard to the non-reservation boarding schools apply to the boarding schools on the reservation, except that not quite such large numbers are involved, and the schools are somewhat nearer to the homes of the Indians. Both of these advantages are offset, however, by the fact that recently the reservation boarding schools have become in some cases as large and unwieldy as many of the non-reservation schools, with even greater lacks in trained teachers and other workers, especially because of their isolation, and the children are often so far away from their homes that there is almost as little opportunity for maintaining family life as in the non-reservation school. A Navajo pupil at Keams Canyon or Tuba City, for example, is, for all practical purposes if not actually, further away from his home than if he were a Chippewa or a Sioux Indian at Pipestone, Flandreau, or any one of the smaller non- reservation schools in Minnesota or the Dakotas.

Place of Reservation Boarding Schools. The number of reservation boarding schools shows a commendable tendency to decrease, as public school provision begins to be made. There were only fifty-nine of these schools in 1926, as compared with eighty-five in 1916. The number of pupils has increased, however, without facilities to take care of them having increased in anything like a corresponding manner, the result being that congestion is often worse than at the large schools, and housing and health conditions bad.

Ultimately most of the boarding schools as at present organized should disappear. There should be no wholesale program for getting rid of them, however; each should be considered in the light of its surroundings and with a view to the part it might play in a comprehensive program of Indian education. It seems quite evident that in some instances boarding schools have already been abandoned where they should probably not have been; and some are still in operation that are of little use. Besides the special opportunities of the sort described under the non-reservation schools, most of which are worthy of consideration for boarding schools on the reservation, there is also the possibility of using some of the boarding school plants, with necessary modifications, as boarding homes, where handicapped or underprivileged children may live, getting necessary home care and special treatment but attending public schools. In some places the idea that needs to be kept in mind is that of the central or consolidated school as developed in many parts of the West and South, where most pupils attend as day pupils but where boarding pupils can also be accommodated—a central school with boarding facilities.

Undoubtedly boarding schools will have to continue to be maintained in some localities or at least boarding facilities furnished. The Navajo situation is usually referred to in this connection, and at present boarding accommodations are perhaps the only way; but even here those in charge of Indian education should first of all investigate the possibilities of small day schools, schools with some boarding facilities, and even "itinerant teaching," as used in some Parts of the United States, before giving up the idea of something better than a boarding school. Another situation that would seem to require a central school with boarding facilities in addition to local schools is among the Mississippi Choctaws. In general, however, the boarding school as such should be abandoned as rapidly as day schools can be provided.

The changes suggested in the non-reservation boarding schools will have to be made in the smaller boarding schools on the reservation, whether maintained, transformed or eventually abolished. In some cases the public might take over the boarding schools for ordinary public school purposes, but in most cases the government plant is not as good as a local community would insist upon in building a new public school. One advantage that ought to be utilized in improving or modifying these boarding schools is the fact that even with the distances that prevail on Indian reservations the reservation boarding school is usually smaller and less institutional, is closer to the parents whose children it has, and has better opportunities for developing normal social life.

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Last modified April 25, 2008