Colonial Instillations in American Indian Boarding School Students
Robbins, Rockey, Colmant, Steven, Dorton, Julie, Schultz, Lahoma Colmant, Yevette, Ciali, Peter, Educational Foundations
There is a general knowledge about the United States governments' deliberate attempts to destroy American Indian cultures. Our history books tell of American Indian students being locked in week long routines to keep them out of mischief, underfed to break down resistance and being given deadening rounds of simple, repetitious chores bereft of challenges to numb their intelligence, and taught dominant western values and language (Brave Heart & De Bruyn (1998). Possibly, too few people are aware that assimilation of American Indians continues in our country today in multitudinous forms, including Indian boarding school residential environments. The assimilation of American Indians entails the replacement of tribal sets of beliefs and actions directly linked to the beliefs of distinct tribal groups with Western sets of beliefs and actions (Brayboy, 2005).
Currently there are 72 Indian boarding schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, serving over 10,000 students in the United States (Bureau of Indian Affairs, 2003). The few educational and psychological articles suggest that many Indian boarding schools have and do engage in assimilating students into mainstream culture at the expense of tribal values. In a national survey by Robinson-Zanatir and Majel-Dixon (1996), 234 American Indian parents representing fifty-five tribes reported that they felt that tribal schools valued Indian children more than Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding schools and public schools in the areas of: respect, expectations of achievement, and degree to which Indian culture is valued. In narrative comments, participants stressed that boarding schools have not tried to understand Indian communities, culture or learning styles. Lacroix (1994) reported that American Indian girls attending Indian boarding schools related that they suffer from loss of cultural identity and experience their schools as "imposed" systems. Noted historian Joel Spring (2001) decries Anglo-American racism in Indian boarding schools which insidiously replaces tribal cultures with dominant culture. He sites religious intolerance as being particularly prevalent in Indian boarding schools.
There is anecdotal support suggesting that American Indian boarding school attendance may be associated with psychological dysfunction among some students. Counseling American Indian clients in British Colombia, Charles Brasfield (2001) identified a common symptomology among survivors of Indian residential schools, which he calls "residential school syndrome." The effects include: distressing recollections, recurrent distressing dreams of residential school, a sense of reliving the residential experiences, distress at exposure to cues that resemble residential experiences, avoidance of stimuli associated with residential experience, inability to recall important aspects of residential experience, diminished interest in participating in tribal activities, restrictive range of affect, feelings of detachment, increased arousal particularly when intoxicated, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, and exaggerated startle response. Symptoms may include deficient knowledge of tribal culture, deficient parenting skills and a tendency to abuse alcohol and drugs.
This study attempts to take into account the interplay of inner psychic conflicts of American Indian boarding school students in Indian boarding school environments; interactions between aspects of the school environment; the broader environment, such as the government and /or the media; and cultural and political beliefs complex process of assimilation that occurs in Indian boarding school residential settings (Bronfenbrenner's ecological model, 1979). There are several elements in this study that mark it as unique. (1) It focuses on boarding school residential practices rather than academic educational practices. (2) It also accepts the risk of attempting to analyze inter-psychic conflicts in the context of cultural, political and social contexts. This is risky because the analysis' will be tarnished by interpretive Western categories not perfectly shaped to fit American Indian epistemologies and cosmologies. On the other hand, if done in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner, it offers the possibility of shining a light not just on the often invisible schooling consciousness of racism, meritocracy, and other internalized values but also on the inner psychic conflicts that are too often ignored in contemporary Educational Psychology with its empirical emphasis on behavioral operational constructs or constructionist approaches with their emphasis' on surface discourse and linguistics. As researchers who worked many years in clinical practice counseling American Indians, the writers of this article have not been convinced that American Indian psychological experiences can be encapsulated by the empirical constructs of Western Psychologies nor do we adhere to the idea that discussion of American Indians' inner psychic worlds is utterly irrelevant though we realize its speculative terminology is culturally biased. Resistance to colonization must occur at the deepest levels of psychic awareness not simply on the behavior or discursive level because the assimilation process is insidious and has reached the deepest levels of the unconscious. The problem is knowing how to use the tools of Critical theories' analytic thought to get at the deepest reaches of the psyches of American Indians to help make explicit the destructive workings of assimilation. (3) This study also takes a historically dynamic approach in its methodology. Both former Indian boarding school students' and current students are included as participants. It is hoped that the utilization of both perspectives will enhance and extend what might have been a more temporal perspective if we had used only one or the other. Hopefully the approach will enrich understandings of long term positive and negative influences of boarding school experiences upon participants' psychological functioning. The former boarding school students' longer period to reflect upon their experiences may add a profundity and objectivity to their boarding school memories and interpretations. On the other hand, former students' recall and interpretations may be affected by faulty memory functioning and interference from more recent experiences. Even with these problems the current researchers believe that the inclusion of former boarding school students offer a historically dynamic perspective to this qualitative inquiry that bursts the bounds of more rigorous spacial-temporal studies that offer less potential for holistic relevance and depth.
The guiding theories to be utilized in this study are the Tribal Critical Race Theory (Brayboy, 2005) and Critical Theory. Tribal Critical Race Theory (Brayboy, 2005) utilizes ideas and emphases' derived from Critical Race Theory, such as the exposition of how the law creates and maintains hierarchical society and how the American Educational system often perpetuates racism, sexism and poverty (Delgado Bernal 2002; Solorzano, 1998) and then supplements it with unique perspectives derived from tribal people's experience of colonization. Brayboy (2005) lists nine tenets of Tribal Critical Race Theory.
(1) Colonization is endemic to society. (2) U.S. policies toward Indigenous peoples are rooted in imperialism, White supremacy, and a desire for material gain. (3) Indigenous people are placed in state of in-betweeness, in between joint statuses as legal/political and racialized beings, where the larger society is unaware of their multiple statuses. (4) Indigenous peoples have a desire to obtain and forge tribal sovereignty, tribal autonomy, self-determination, and self-identification. (5) The concepts of culture, knowledge, and power take on new meaning when examined through an Indigenous lens. (6) Governmental and educational policies toward Indigenous peoples are intimately linked around the problematic goal of assimilation. (7) Tribal ways and perspectives and visions for the future are central to understanding the lived realities of Indigenous peoples, but they also illustrate the differences and adaptability among individuals and groups. 8) Stories make up theory and are real and legitimate sources of data and ways of being. 9) And theory and practice are connected in deep and explicit ways such that scholars must work towards social change.
Many of the above points will be expanded upon as they will be used to illuminate comments made by participants in this study. To sensitively address the depth psychology aspect of this study, the current researchers will supplement the Tribal Critical Race Theory with the American Indian Post-Colonial Psychology theory (Duran & Duran, 1995) which explores the "soul wound" of tribal people which they believe stems from intergenerational posttrauma incurred from critical events and periods of oppression such as wars, reservation subjugation, boarding schools, relocation, and termination. Duran and Duran (1995) also deconstruct linear temporal and utilitarian perspectives that they feel American Indians have internalized primarily through participating in American educational systems. The American …
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Publication information: Article title: Colonial Instillations in American Indian Boarding School Students. Contributors: Robbins, Rockey - Author, Colmant, Steven - Author, Dorton, Julie - Author, Schultz, Lahoma Colmant, Yevette - Author, Ciali, Peter - Author. Journal title: Educational Foundations. Volume: 20. Issue: 3-4 Publication date: Summer-Fall 2006. Page number: 69+. © 2006 Caddo Gap Press. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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