Accepted Paper:

Memories and Traditional Knowledge in the Art Work of Indian School Children  


Jacqueline Fear-Segal (University of East Anglia)

Paper short abstract:

A collection of drawings, created by nineteenth century Native American school children from different Native nations, will be interrogated to reveal evidence of their extensive cultural knowledge and to explore issues of memory, identity, and resistance.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation will explore ways in which drawings created by Native American school children can provide evidence of their extensive cultural knowledge and memories, despite having being subjected to a programme of Americanization. Schools for Native children were inseparable from the United States' broader geo-political agenda. In the final quarter of the nineteenth century, as Native lands across the continent were seized and incorporated into the American nation, Native children were enrolled in white-run schools in order to be transformed from "savages" into "civilized" individuals worthy of American citizenship. Carlisle Indian Industrial School (1879-1918) was the first government supported military boarding school dedicated to this task, and it was here that the blueprint for a federal system of Indian schools was laid down. Located in Pennsylvania, far from Indian Country, Carlisle's mission was to transport the students from their home communities and obliterate all elements of their traditional cultures, in order to re-educate them in the religion, beliefs, and behaviours of mainstream America. Students were enrolled for a period of between 3 and 5 years and during that time they rarely returned home. Yet despite the intense programme of Americanisation to which they were subjected, analysis of drawings created by Carlisle students from different Native nations often reveal detailed evidence of their traditional knowledge. Some of these surviving drawings will be interrogated in this presentation in order to explore issues of memory, identity, and resistance.

Panel P002
Art as Ethnography/Ethnography as Art