Light & Shadows of Chalandor Book of Shadows
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Title: Tools of assimilation
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Autumn_Heather
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(Date Posted:02/09/2009 21:38 PM)
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Tools of assimilation


Because Pratt wanted his charges to learn trades as well as academics, half of each day was devoted to reading, writing and arithmetic, and the other half to trades, such as blacksmithing and carpentry for the boys, sewing and laundry for the girls. The entire system was shaped by Pratt's military past. Boys dressed in uniforms, and girls wore Victorian-style dresses. The students practiced marching and drilling and were given military-style ranks.

One of the few original structures still standing on the grounds is a haunting reminder of the school's rigidity. Built in 1777 to store gunpowder, the guardhouse contained four cells in which children were locked up, sometimes for up to a week, for various indiscretions. Running away was a common offense.

In addition to their vocational and academic pursuits, the Indian children also studied the humanities. Pictures in the students' sketch books chart the progress of assimilation. When they first arrived, children drew things they remembered from home, such as buffalo hunts and warriors counting coup on horseback. In time, the drawings evolved into representations of their new lives - including images of farms and children with short hair wearing European-style clothing.

Mohican composer Brent Michael Davids, who is performing at Powwow 2000, has studied the use of music as a tool of assimilation. Though the children came from backgrounds rich in song, they had no concept of European approaches to music. "The students sang songs at mealtimes in a four-part harmony," Davids explains. "It was a completely different singing style. The hymns they were forced to sing were the Western style, espousing the values of being good Christians."

Nearly 120 members of Davids' Stockbridge Mohican clan attended Carlisle. He learned about them while composing music for a CD-ROM about the Indian School. "[Carlisle] was a missing link for me," Davids says. "I knew they tried to kill us, then herded us onto reservations, but I couldn't figure out how we cut our hair and started wearing shoes."

Theater also was used to indoctrinate the students in the customs of white America. Lynne Allen, an artist who lives in Furlong, Pennsylvania, remembers finding a photograph of her Lakota grandmother, Daphne Waggoner, performing in a Thanksgiving play at Carlisle. "Indians dressed as Pilgrims and Indians dressed as Indians," Allen says, laughing at the irony of Native Americans portraying stereotypes of themselves.
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