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Title: 'The man on the bandstand'
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/09/2009 21:40 PM)
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'The man on the bandstand'

"Kill the Indian, save the man."
- R.H. Pratt, often-repeated catch phrase

Pratt 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.

Tsianina 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."
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