'The man on the bandstand'
"Kill the Indian, save the man."
- R.H. Pratt, often-repeated catch phrase
wrote extensively and candidly about his reasons for founding the
Carlisle school. He referred to relations between European and Native
Americans in terms of the "Indian problem" and compared it to a
similarly widespread attitude toward the "Negro problem." In 1890 he
wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, "If millions of black
savages can become so transformed and assimilated, and if, annually,
hundreds of thousands of emigrants from all lands can also become
Anglicized, Americanized, assimilated and absorbed through association,
there is but one plain duty resting upon us with regard to the Indians,
and that is to relieve them of their savagery and other alien qualities
by the same methods used to relieve the others."
Pratt may be
considered a bigot by today's standards, but his views of African
Americans and Indians were considered progressive 100 years ago. He and
most people who regarded themselves as advocates for Native Americans
considered Carlisle a "noble experiment." He believed that education
was the only way native people would survive - at a time when the
survival of Indians was a goal that a significant number of white
Americans did not support.
Pratt was often referred to as "the
man on the bandstand." Located directly in the center of the school's
campus, the circular bandstand provided a view of the entire grounds.
But more than a pseudonym for Pratt, the constant reminder that "the
man on the bandstand" was watching represented the all-encompassing,
paternalistic way in which Pratt and the teachers, ministers and
matrons viewed themselves as the "saviors" of the Indian children. The
phrase was meant to make the children feel secure and cared for. It
also reminded them that they were under constant surveillance.
Lomawaima believes, in some ways, Pratt was unusual for his era. "His
commitment to those students as individual human beings was unique,"
she says. "He really believed in them. He fought for those kids. The
part of Pratt that wasn't unusual was that he didn't believe Indian
culture would survive, or should."