The Cultural Transformation of a Native American Family and Its Tribe, 1763-1995: A Basket of Apples

The Cultural Transformation of a Native American Family and Its Tribe, 1763-1995: A Basket of Apples

The Cultural Transformation of a Native American Family and Its Tribe, 1763-1995: A Basket of Apples

The Cultural Transformation of a Native American Family and Its Tribe, 1763-1995: A Basket of Apples

Synopsis

This book describes the impact of U. S. government civilization and education policies on a Native American family and its tribe from 1763 to 1995. While engaged in a personal quest for his family's roots in Choctaw tribal history, the author discovered a direct relationship between educational policies and their impact on his family and tribe. Combining personal narrative with traditional historical methodology, the author details how federal education policies concentrated power in a tribal elite that controlled its own school system in which students were segregated by social class and race.

The book begins with the cultural differences that existed between Native Americans and European colonists. The civilization policies discussed begin in the 1790s when both Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson searched for a means of gaining the lands occupied by the southern tribes, including the Choctaws. The story involves a complicated interaction between government policies, the agenda of white educators, and the desires of Native Americans. In a broader context, it is a study of the evolution of an American family from the extended support of the community and clan of the past, to the present world of single parents adrift without community or family safety nets.

Excerpt

While engaged in a personal quest for my family's roots in Choctaw tribal history, I discovered a direct relationship between federal "civilization" programs and changes in my family and tribe from the 18th to the early 20th century. Educated as an historian of ideas with a primary focus on the history of educational ideas and institutions, I quickly became interested in the effect of government policies on the cultural transformation of both the Choctaws and my family.

I am not very proud of my family's leadership role in the cultural transformation of the Choctaws. During this period of cultural change, my family mirrored, at least from my perspective, some of the worst qualities of European-American society. For the Choctaws, civilization policies resulted in the development of social classes in what had been an essentially egalitarian society, the use of educational institutions to maintain political and economic power, the ownership of enslaved Africans, and, after fighting on the side of the Confederacy, the establishment of a racially segregated Choctaw school system.

My story begins with the cultural differences that existed between Native Americans and European colonists. Federal civilization policies were designed to eliminate these cultural differences. The civilization policies of the federal government were essentially educational policies designed to change Native Americans into model European Americans. The discussion of civilization policies begins with the 1790s, when President George Washington began and Thomas Jefferson continued to search for a means of gaining the lands occupied by the southern tribes, including the Choctaws.

Of course, Native Americans did not believe that European Americans had a superior lifestyle and they tried to change federal policies to meet their needs. Of particular importance to my family history are those European Americans who, deciding Native American values were superior, abandoned European culture and joined Native American tribes as "white Indians." In addition, the educators, primarily missionaries, had their own agenda. Therefore, my story involves a complicated interaction between the policies of the government, the agenda of White educators, and the desires of Native Americans. At each stage . . .

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