Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press

Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press

Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press

Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press

Synopsis

Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press is the first comprehensive collection of writings by students and well-known Native American authors who published in boarding school newspapers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Students used their acquired literacy in English along with more concrete tools that the boarding schools made available, such as printing technology, to create identities for themselves as editors and writers. In these roles they sought to challenge Native American stereotypes and share issues of importance to their communities.

Writings by Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa), Charles Eastman, and Luther Standing Bear are paired with the works of lesser-known writers to reveal parallels and points of contrast between students and generations. Drawing works primarily from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (Pennsylvania), the Hampton Institute (Virginia), and the Seneca Indian School (Oklahoma), Jacqueline Emery illustrates how the boarding school presses were used for numerous and competing purposes. While some student writings appear to reflect the assimilationist agenda, others provide more critical perspectives on the schools' agendas and the dominant culture. This collection of Native-authored letters, editorials, essays, short fiction, and retold tales published in boarding school newspapers illuminates the boarding school legacy and how it has shaped, and continues to shape, Native American literary production.

Excerpt

In December 1879 three young Native American women at the Seneca Indian School—Ida Johnson, Arizona Jackson, and Lula Walker—launched the first issue of their school newspaper, the Hallaquah. This was a rather extraordinary feat, considering these students were printers and editors at a time when such positions were limited for Native Americans and especially limited for young Native women. It is even more remarkable that in the inaugural issue, they proclaimed their intention to make the newspaper serve their own interests and those of the local Native American community and not strictly those of school authorities. Whereas school authorities used boarding school newspapers to promote the civilizing missions of their schools and showcase the transformation of their students, the Indian schoolgirl editors of the Hallaquah had something else in mind.

As they announce in their first editorial: “We desire and intend that the Hallaquah shall represent the spirit of our school and always speak in behalf of its interest. Supported directly by the Hallaquah Society, it yet is intended to be a true exponent of the Seneca, Shawnee, and Wyandotte Industrial Boarding School, and a news letter to the neighboring people as well as for the pupils” (Hallaquah Editorial, December 1879, this volume). Their commitment to using the Hallaquah as a vehicle for serving their community and preserving aspects of Native American cultures reflects how students learned to use the tools of the boarding school—their proficiency in English, access to new print technologies, and exposure to the dominant discourses on racial identity—to pose challenges, albeit often subtle ones, to the assimilative policies and practices of the boarding school.

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