Visits home were frowned upon and discouraged, and most Indian families could not afford to pay for the long journey home from the schools, so children remained there year-round until their schooling was complete in many cases.
However, many families did see the worth of a formal education for their children. Author Child notes, "Still, many Ojibwe parents, persuaded of the importance of an education or learning a trade for their child's future, would have agreed with the North Dakota father whose son and daughter attended Flandreau when he expressed his desire for their success in school and wish to keep them there, 'as much as we can stand it'" (Child 54). These parents often hoped their children would receive an education, but also learn a trade, so they could make their way in the world as adults. In theory, children attended school for half the day, and then learned a vocation the other half. However, often, this did not occur. Author Childs states, "The rest of the school day was devoted to vocational training, which consisted primarily of labor at the school. Prior to the 1930s, students who arrived at Flandreau were disappointed to find that formal instruction in the manual trades was sadly lacking" (Child 73). In fact, most of the boys worked on the school's farm as their vocational training, and many of the girls were hired out to local families as maids and servants.
One of the most tragic results of the boarding school experience was the loss of cultural, religious, and lifestyle traditions that occurred in the children. Another author notes, "[D]uring the six years they had attended reservation boarding school and resolved to reacquaint them with Anishinaabe ways. Having been separated from their mother for six years, only the oldest daughter retained any knowledge of the Anishinaabe language and translated conversation for all the others" (Meyer 117). The entire intent of the boarding schools was to "civilize" the Native children, and in doing so, they turned them into Christians who no longer remembered their Tribe's traditions, celebrations, and folk tales, and it has taken some Tribes decades to recapture these lost traditions.
Students at these schools did make lifelong friends, often with members of other Tribes who were also boarding at the school. Another writer states, "Considering the centuries of intertribal antagonisms, or merely the linguistic and cultural differences among many pupils, the school did provide an environment in which young Indians from a great number of tribes learned to adjust to each other in a remarkably short time" (Coleman 142). They learned to respect each other, and many students tell tales of lifelong friendships remaining long after they left the schools (Child 3-5).
In conclusion, Native American boarding schools were phased out in the 1930s, and after that, Tribes developed their own schools on their reservations. The Native American boarding schools may have meant well, but they forced families apart, they abolished Native language and traditions, and they eliminated Native culture and religion. One young boy says, "But as he grew older, he says, he began to understand the implications of his schooling and to recognize the equally important value of the Chippewa education: 'Nothing the white man could teach me would take the place of what I was learning from the forest, the lakes, and the river'" (Spack 135). It has taken Native Americans like the Ojibway decades and decades to begin to truly develop these traditions again, and thankfully, the boarding schools are no longer able to remove them from the people's lives.
Child, Brenda J. Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.
Coleman, Michael C. American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1993.
Editors. "Native Languages of the Americas: Chippewa." Native Languages.org. 2008. 5 Dec. 2008. http://www.native-languages.org/chippewa.htm.
Meyer, Melissa L. Ethnicity and Dispossession at a Minnesota Anishinaabe Reservation, 1889-1920. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.