Boarding School and Land Allotment Eras 1879-1933


By the 1880s, all eastern Indian nations have been moved to reservations, where they are systematically excluded from the American economy and political system. Traditional practices and ceremonies are outlawed. Children are removed from their homes and placed in boarding schools, where they are forced to adopt Christianity and punished if they speak their language or maintain their cultural practices. The U.S. already operates 60 reservation day schools or reservation boarding schools, but by 1879, U.S. policy more explicitly seeks to disrupt Native community ties and identity. The U.S. launches a boarding school policy that requires Native children to be removed from their home communities and placed in residential boarding schools, far from their homelands, in order to Christianize and fully assimilate Native children (Lomawaima & Ostler, 2018). Fueled by oil and timber interests on Native lands, by the end of the 1800s, the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) contributes to the dissolution of the reservation system and facilitates the end of tribal landholding. The law breaks up remaining reservation and tribal lands into 160-acre parcels assigned to individual families, while the “surplus” is sold to non-Indians. In 1881, American Indians have 155 million acres of land; by 1900, they hold only 77 million acres (Nies, 1996). Communities are left devastated and struggling with starvation, poverty, and physical, spiritual, and mental health concerns.