Monday, May 2, 2011

Phoenix Indian School (Steele Indian School Park)

Apache children wearing traditional clothing when arriving to the Indian School (Source: U.S. Army Signal Corps, courtesy of the Arizona Historical Foundation)

The same children would later switch to uniforms (Source: U.S. Army Signal Corps, courtesy of the Arizona Historical Foundation)
300 N Indian School Road (3rd Street Entrance), Phoenix, AZ  

The Federal Government established The Phoenix Indian School in 1891.  The institutions purpose was to use forced assimilation tactics on Native American youth to promote a more civilized “American” lifestyle.  The Archeology of Phoenix Indian School notes, “The Phoenix Indian School was an instrument of the federal government's Indian policy, which can best be described as Anglo-conformity.” Native American youth were gathered from countless tribes in surrounding areas and were forced to attend the boarding school.  The state institution ran the school in a military format in which discipline was highly stressed. New students were forced to forget about their native culture and traditions and acquire “whiteness” through practice.   For instance, students were discarded of their traditional “savage” clothing in favor of marching uniforms.  In 1905,  The Phoenix Indian School Newspaper published Robert Lewis’s speech after graduation, “The boy is filled with sorrow, to think he can no longer enjoy the freedom of his home, and live with those he loves. He must soon be placed in the care of the pale-face, whom he can not fully trust. He can no longer listen to his father's stories and legends of the past. The feathers and paint, with which he loves to ornament himself, must be renounced” (The Archeology of Phoenix Indian School). This speech was significant because it showed the overwhelming hegemony of the white population over everyone else in the United States. The “white” leaders exploited their desire to maintain power by developing institutions such as the Phoenix Indian School to continue to maintain control in the future by denying every culture but their own. Moreover, they did so without consequence even if it meant violating their own statues. For example, the Archeology of Phoenix Indian School describes the student’s mandatory church attendance, “Students who did not attend church were punished. In 1934, religious freedom was established and compulsory attendance of religious services was eliminated in 1934 according to federal policy, but in practice punishment for not attending church continued through the 1960s.” Through such practices, the government showed its intent to fully assimilate Native American youth even by the means of depriving their traditions. Though assimilation was highly  promoted by the “white” government, their goal was to maintain hegemony not create equality amongst whites and Indians, especially when the school’s early slogan stated, “Be a Phoenix Indian, not a Reservation Bum” (White Bison Org).

- Orlando Menjivar, Chris Rutherford, and Andrew Candelaria

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