Teaching the White Man's Way
By Michael L. Cooper
(Clarion Books, Hardcover, 9780395920848, 112pp.)
Publication Date: September 1999
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In 1879 eighty-four Sioux boys and girls became the inaugural group of students to be enrolled at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Carlisle was the first institution opened by the federal government for the education of Native American children. The brainchild of former Indian fighter Captain Richard Pratt, Carlisle, like other schools that followed, was established to teach Indian children the "white man's way." For some, like Olympian Jim Thorpe, Indian School led to success and prosperity, but for many others it was an education in alienation and isolation. Michael L. Cooper examines the Indian Schools and tells the personal stories, often in their own words, of several young students, including Zitkala-Sa, who wrote, "Like a slender tree, I had been uprooted from my mother, nature, and God."
Michael L. Cooper has written books on various aspects of American history for young adults, including a companion book, Fighting for Honor: Japanese Americans and World War II, which was named a 2002 Best Book for Young Adults.
"This moving photo-essay is simply told and focused on the personal." Booklist, ALA, Boxed Review
"The author makes a brave attempt to be evenhanded, balancing the schools' renowned athletic accomplishments and prominent attendees against the harsh punishment, outright abuses, and ruthless cultural indoctrination to which students were subjected. Despite scattered successes, it is obvious that the ends were neither justified nor accomplished by the means. . . . Cooper may skimp on the schools' modern history, but by steering a middle course in his account of their origins, practices, educational philosophy, and early record, he allows readers to draw their own conclusions. Generous helpings of contemporary black-and-white photographs and statements give many students both voices and faces; a concluding list of sources (of varying reliability) includes web sites. (map, b&w photos and reproductions, further readng, bibliography, index)" Kirkus Reviews
"Cooper delivers a well-documented and sobering depiction of the late-19th-century military-style boarding schools established to instruct children of various Indian tribes in 'the white man's way.' . . . Quotes from former students at Carlisle and other such schools describe what it was like to forcibly have their hair cut (the Sioux cut their hair only as a sign of sadness or shame; for the the Hopi, long hair symbolized fertility), to be removed from their families and to be forbidden to speak their language. Anecdotes about teachers who helped realize the dreams of some of the youths and the remarkable feats of the schools' athletic teams plus an impressive selection of archival photos (including one of a four-year-old student) round out this wrenching account." Publishers Weekly