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This is Indian country recorded educational radio presentation produced by the University of Denver a grant from the educational television and radio Saturday in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasting. This is a story told by individuals in their own words and by those who know Indians well. A story of the American Indian of a modern world which has surrounded him have changed his ancient way. I've learned a story brought to you by a tape recordings made largely on Navajo reservations and drop it and add allies by our guide through Indian country. Dr. Ruth Underhill professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Denver author and the nationally respected authority on her favorite subject the American Indian The modern and wants education. And here to tell you about his struggle to get it is Dr. Ruth under him.
I'm talking this time about education for the modern Indian. Does anyone think it consists of sitting around a campfire hearing stories of magick. Well let me introduce you to a little boy who got into my car on the reservation. How old are you. Twelve and you go to school what grade. Tell us what you like to play. Are you on the team and you play against other teams. What are you going to do when you go to play. Yes all right. But he goes to an Indian school run by the government the groom and children however a near enough to a public school so they can go there. I talked to Mrs. Goldman and know the hole
in her pleasant little frame house with rugs on the floor pictures on the wall. And the piano is sheets of music. I had asked her about her children the youngest one is. 11 years old. He goes to the public school and also my daughter goes to the public school. In high school she's in the high school. I'd rather like to know how you feel about public school as different from Indian School which do you like best but you know for your children. Well I think that yeah it's good for the boy. We think i children to go to school with the white children which is going to help them a lot you know. You think they teach them that live statement. He is out of sympathy with the kind of teaching that has to be done
speaking. I'm glad to say that young people like him so they can attend public school. However this desire for education is a fairly new thing. Listen to the interpreter expressing the feelings of. This group. I guess he was told. Not to go either because he was quite a ways from here. If you have to go through what he said. Government officials used to have a hard time inducing mil
because for years chief on the reservation told us about the time I first entered onto the Navajo 29. They had to send out the Navajo policeman every fall to round up the Navajo children and part drag them into school and had a lot of runaways. And later on they have a whole consul. Went on record as wanting more school facilities for their children. But that was a very very sudden change wasn't it. Yes and what do you think they do to you. Well I think more of the people began to realize that they were not going to be able to stay on reservation forever there wouldn't be room and it wouldn't be resources enough for all of the people to live on the reservation and they knew that their children were going to have to have a good education in order to compete in the world.
Yeah it's no wonder the children who would spend their days out in the sunshine or in tending sheep had no desire to sit on a hard bench three hours a day for three four or even ten years. In fact they were often asked to be paid for doing such a thing. George Bush you know runs the largest Indian school in the United States. I think they had something on there. It was in many ways a cruel kind of education. We had rather cruel relationships in many way know Stace to minority groups whether they were European or American Indian. And the Indian withdrew characteristically. And whenever he could the attempt was to teach him exactly the behavior of a middle class white citizen Wasn't it something which the Indian didn't expect deliciously later insists that he become like a white person as I say whether there was any good reason for it or not either economically or socially and imposed change.
Well then one reason the Indians didn't come to school one reason that there were not enough schools was that there also were not enough Indians. And that is true and particularly that kind of education. So now that there's a different kind of education Indians do really want this. I think their nans have been mad to see the value of education. And education itself has improved out rock and its techniques so that it has become the kind that they like as an hour say it tasted good and so I'll take some mom. And I own days it didn't taste good. And aren't talking at all to fill them up. I agree Education has changed so that it tastes better to the Indians but also Indians have changed. It was partly the war that made them realize that the white man gets out of studying. When Roy told me wistfully. I could be a technical sergeant if I'd been to school. Another wrote home make my little
brother go to school if you have to do it. So Indian suddenly began to clear the schools and naturally they were not schooled enough to go around. The present commission again Emmons has almost worked magic in that respect. But he told me what a difficult it was. On August 10th 1953 when I took office as commissioner. We had twenty eight thousand Navajo children of school age between the ages of 6 and 18. And in spite of everything expenditure of money and urging the Indians to go to school. We only had 14000 of them school and there were 14000 I've never seen one side of a school house. So we developed. What we call a Navajo emergency educational program. The purpose of that was to say that ever bred Navajo. Had a seat and a school and two years time.
Congress asshole Nesta gave us a supplemental appropriations of necessary to get that program and fact. Approaches to make it possible to get these nomadic people in. And I'm very happy to say that last for the first time since the Treaty of 1868. We don't have school every Navajo. One of the unique approaches Mr. Ammons talked about was the trailer. That means that teacher and classroom are actually given wheels so that they can follow the nomadic Navajo as they move about with a sheep. This would not have been possible some years ago where they simply were not roads where a trailer could go. Now there is a beginning network of roads which at least is passable. Over them heroes some 60 trailers to be set up in spots from which sometimes you know
Navajo had been to school before. An official in charge of trailers another schooling but one district was missing. I said in her neat office furnished with modern disks and typewriters and asked just what a trade school is. It means more than one trailer for a school. What if one couple one. By one is good and the children walk to the trail a school in North Dakota sort of well
thank you. Now there are various ages Andriy usually from 6 to 1 or at least 11 or 12 years old it makes a problem for the teacher. She must teach several grades I suppose. Yes usually in most cases it's about 3. Beginning here first grade and second and some. Children of that age have never had a school in the way that white children in history of the reservation. I turned to Miss Yeo She's assistant Mrs. Clark who has taught in school. I asked how the children took to it and whether they really attend regularly. Some of them do. Don't you know that we have had parents come in and complain that their child maybe has reached on the second grade. He has been maybe six and when we really investigate those cases we
find that maybe they haven't been in Rome six different years. Perhaps Actually he has attended school less than two. Now perhaps that was because the parents moved away and the child moved with them. Or perhaps it was that the job parents didn't know the child was absent. It could be either one of them. Sometimes the parents find work and then times they send the children to school. The children ran away. Of course they do and so do white children. But he was one youngster who goes to day school though not a trailer. And he seems to like it all right. How old are you. Sick. And do you go to school. Yeah. Where do you go to go to school and grade.
How do you feel about school do you like it. What do you like to study this reading and what book do you read. The first grade every day. Do you have any other books beside that. Yeah I know that. What story. Tell us what story you like. Any stories. What do you want to do when you get to me. This is the day schools the government and the missionaries have had boarding schools gathering in the children of more advanced grades in a place where they can have large buildings and sufficient teaching staff. I went to ask Mrs. Clark about this. I think you said that the parents really like to have their children go to boarding school for at least the reason that they know they're there. They know they really are attending every day.
So yeah. What else do they like about the boarding school besides the fact that the child is at school regularly. Many of the parents are going to boarding school because they're getting into school on a big task preparing and getting and preparing food. In other words they're not the responsibility of caring for the even financially. The boarding school clothes are provided free in most cases the parents cannot provide the clothing. Clothing will be provided. But if the child is away from home from relationships and I suppose he gets pretty well detached in the course of several years. True Steve Tyrell book features of a book the first coming to boarding school
must be a strange and frightening thing to a child straight from the sticks or rather the sagebrush. Most boarding schools try to meet the difficulty but putting educated young Indians who speak their language as what are called advice is for both boys and girls. Incident Ginny is a boy's advisor and he described the kind of gives you. To do and you have people talking to them and talk to them. He could be. Pretty happy to be happy travels along. We talk to him back to the. Track again. Right track.
Leading south more or less. I don't know. Well they really need that don't they. Now when they come in from the whole grand like these are covered ones that we saw today they haven't had furniture there they haven't had toilets or running water. You have to explain all about that don't you. Right. That's the first I think I've done with her attend as an adviser you have a big job. Beginning the school year that's what we have. That's the first thing we have to do these are boys and girls. And by the washroom using the toilet I saw all these in there. And now I have to take their time said Dr. Boyce and we heard a while ago as these same problems on a huge scale. The school at intermodal was set up
especially for children in their teens who had never been to school perhaps never wanted to go. Now they won't jobs they can't have them without schooling but they're too old to begin at the beginning. So a speeded up course has been worked out to give them the essentials that the boys has good reason to feel encouraged. Well we think that we've salvaged that generation. We do part of the fact that I only got five years of schooling but we couldn't. Turn back the clocks of time. As one example we graduated 300 students this. Past spring. All of them with enough. Knowledge of English and enough knowledge of modern custom. And a vocational skill to. Be self-supporting now. Off the reservation. And every one of them has asked us to get him a job off the reservation. Oh and I know that none of those children are
elected to return to the reservation although they had that privilege. Now do you feel that in the five years that most of these students have. You can change their attitudes and really get them ready to live in this new. Way don't destroy the old attitudes we add some new ones. But you feel you have had enough. So then we did it we had enough. Yes I mean the essential essential requirement. Necessary to get a job live in a community and in one's living there any head that is perfectly harmless habits which are just different from white in which you make a point of changing. And yes. Some some of them. Are. It may seem unimportant. But the typical walk of the Navajo girl for example is very graceless
and a social handicap really. People who walk with poise and grace again they get acceptance more readily so we think we've changed the walk of the Navajo girl. We practice walking in high heels and walking with a person and things of that charter of that specific. We practice making conversation. Because as I students and I hope people don't talk and chat the way we do and they want to know how do you talk to a white man when you go to church or you attend a wedding or go to a dance and we practice just how much what we remark about when you go to a debt as. Something more important than arithmetic and spelling and getting ahead and me quite well. Do you find you have to overcome a great deal of shyness in the girls how they've been taught to hang their
heads and turn away when a stranger addresses them. Yes and that's. Something that they respond to very well I think with the right model and yet it's. Well emotionally difficult for them at first. It's like teaching them to do something that previously they thought was bad manners is like teaching me. Oh let's say. They say to have good manners and Turkey you should belch at a meal. And I would still feel very uncomfortable. And exercised in that kind of good man. And I will feel just as uncomfortable I'm looking you know when I am talking to you because he's been taught that that would embarrass you. Hard to speak to strangers. She thinks that's rude. They respond when we explain that that's the way you make friends and we can't come here to
learn to make friends but it is. Like to them is traditionally bad man. Then they are used to a great deal of intimate family relationship not meeting strangers. Yes that's true. Wait wait wait. It's very it's very pleasing to me however because frankly I've never had the experience before which I'm having now when I go down the hall I walk along the. Street at the school. And I watch children. Well lean out the window even on my back and shout. Good morning Doctor boy should make me turn around and show them and they lead the way. So that you are. Making friends with other people particularly if the other people. Meet them halfway. With those little farming villages which have
been civilized for so long there is no such problem is with the Navajo children were taught by priests when the Spaniards first arrived. Later they went to our government schools and missions. Now many Pueblo families are living near the New Mexican towns aren't in them. Joe Herrera for instance is born the day his wife works in a Santa Fe museum and he teaches in the public school. Here is some of our conversation in the pleasant living room of his house with its overstuffed furniture pretty curtains and a refrigerated visible through the door. Now we're interested in how Indian children and themselves in the public schools. I think you teach in a public school and your children go to a public school. And I get along well I think but I don't notice the difference because more for me. School children that are already in public schools have been raised in the city or towns wherever
they're going to. And so therefore there isn't any noticeable transmission among the ending children because they've already come in contact with the nine in the US right from the beginning Hund going to go to school. So we are probably more Indians living in cities and public schools there and going to public schools than we realized. That's right according to the. Numbers the population see released. A number that there are about forty eight percent of the public in the US that are in public schools. It looks as though Pueblo Indians at least ought to be able to step right into the white man's life. But just as Dr. Boyce told us there are shades of behavior and even of language which a child with an Indian home still has to look at Santa Fe New Mexico. The government has a high school for young Indians getting themselves to go out for jobs. I asked the principal about the problems of running that kind of school.
Mr. Hansen You said that when the students come here they already speak English but I don't suppose they speak it as what we call an Anglo. They don't think in English. No they come from many in homes in which the various Indian languages of which there are many are the first language and English is the second language. So in teaching them here you have to do a great deal more than any Anglo school would do in teaching. How do you do. I mean we must try to build vocabulary. We do that in many different ways we expose and in the junior high and particular to approve pre-book ational courses of all kinds where there are names of two processes there are a language in its very living and vibrant. Then we try also through radio programs through
speech activities of aka And to encourage the development of. Good speech habits. Well then I can see that making the transition involves a great many really difficult problems. Yes learning to speak and learning to make the employer and their fellow employees understand is not all easy. You know it isn't easy because they have the idioms of their own language and to aquire the idioms of English is not easy for any person coming from a language group that's totally unrelated to the English or European languages. Yes we ought to emphasize that fact that the Indian languages have a grammar can't legally different from English and they are amazed at the way we put our words together and put a sentence together on day. Yes and of course this young person might even get in trouble by using a word with the wrong meaning. Yes and then there are also problems of interpretation when one deals
with parents. About a school problem and there is interpretation one has to when he's dealing with an interpreter. Be very careful to avoid idioms that might be misleading. Perhaps we can see what a very complicated problem this still is for Indians even when they want to go to school want jobs want share in modern life. Even a hundred years has not been enough to make those changes easy. One tribe which I think has tackled the problem with amazing common sense is the Navajo. They treasure a Maurice McCabe told me that just at present they know young Navajos are not trained for handling business. Even their own business. But the tribe is doing something about it. Very few people felt that we should do something about this. Therefore there was established in higher education scholarship
this year the council was going to provide $100000 for scholarship assistance to. Qualify young people who show outstanding ability scholastically potential. Both parents and children are eager for education. Listen to my conversation with Byron. Well now back to to where you're going to turn now and I'm going to do that. And you will. I don't know. I don't think you got. Any backer about the education at all. They're being forward right now and you're a parent. You know what I want and yes me
and my kids will be behind them and you know I think. You've just heard Indian country and the eight that a series of recorded programs featuring Dr. Ruth M. Underhill author and noted the thought of eight of the American Indian. Next time on Indian Country you'll hear about the reservation engine and how he looks at the future Indian country was produced by the University of Denver under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. This program is distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is be an IEP Radio Network.
Indian country
The struggle for Indian education
Producing Organization
University of Denver
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program takes a look at education for Native Americans.
Series Description
The problems of social adjustment in the attitudes and through the words of the modern American Indian.
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Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
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Interviewer: Underhill, Ruth, 1883-1984
Producing Organization: University of Denver
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-51-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:07
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Chicago: “Indian country; The struggle for Indian education,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 22, 2024,
MLA: “Indian country; The struggle for Indian education.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 22, 2024. <>.
APA: Indian country; The struggle for Indian education. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from