Adrea Lawrence. Lessons from an Indian Day School: Negotiating Colonization in Northern New Mexico, 1902-1907. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011. x + 309 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7006-1807-1.
Reviewed by Jon Reyhner (Northern Arizona University)
Published on H-Education (June, 2012)
Commissioned by Jonathan Anuik
The core of Lessons from an Indian Day School is the study of the correspondence between Clinton J. Crandall, the superintendent of the Santa Fe Indian School and the acting agent for the Northern Pueblos District, and Clara D. True, a day school teacher stationed at Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico from 1902 to 1907. The author, Adrea Lawrence, relies, however, on correspondence with slim coverage of educational issues. Lawrence does document extensively how True acted as the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) representative to the Santa Clara Pueblo’s government on a variety of health and land usage issues, including a 1903 diphtheria outbreak.
Lawrence starts with an overview of Spanish colonization in what is now New Mexico. Interestingly, she notes that after the United States took over from the Mexican government, the status of the “Hispano population [shifted] from a colonizing majority into a colonized minority,” sharing the fate of the Pueblos in some respects (p. 51). Lawrence describes how the pueblos, needing to deal with successive colonial governments that often viewed Indians as “very much like children,” developed a dual system of governance, consisting of one structure for engaging with the colonial powers and another, traditional theocratic structure for controlling day-to-day pueblo activities, with the traditional structure dominating politically (p. 61). The demands of colonial governments produced splits among different pueblos between accommodators and resisters, probably most famously in the Hopi village of Oraibi in Arizona, which received attention recently from Hopi historian Mathew Sakiestewa Gilbert in his book, Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (2010). For the Santa Clarans, Lawrence notes how the “Summer People” tended to be more traditional, and the “Winter People” more accepting of the Indian Office’s educational plans for their children.
Key events in Pueblo history occurred during True’s tenure. Santa Clara Pueblo and the surrounding lands become an Indian reservation by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 to keep the lands from being taxed and likely eventually taken through tax sales. This was a reversal of the ongoing effort to break up Indian reservations through allotment of their lands to individual tribal members and the sale of “surplus” land to whites. This reversal is not well explained by Lawrence, though she does have an interesting discussion about the issue of whether the Pueblo dwelling farmers should be considered “Indians.” In his 1907 report to Commissioner of Indian Affairs Francis Leupp, Crandall wrote: “'Our school [Santa Fe Indian School] is located so near the different Pueblos that the Indian parents visit their children once or twice during the school year. This in itself did not appeal to me at first, but I have come to believe that it is a benefit rather than a hindrance. In this way parents and children keep in close touch; when the child leaves the school he goes to his home and is thus prepared for his home life, and has not become estranged, forgotten his mother tongue, and does not feel that he is neither an Indian nor a white man'” (as cited on p. 156).
However, there is no discussion by Lawrence of why the superintendent of the Indian Office’s flagship school, Richard Henry Pratt, was dismissed from his position in 1904 by President Roosevelt for insubordination. Pratt wanted his students to totally assimilate to “white” culture and not return home to their reservations. He purposely located his school in the East to make visits more difficult. To speculate, as Lawrence does frequently in this book, was Crandall merely supporting the position of his current superiors? Lawrence provides some discussion of Superintendent of Indian Schools Estelle Reel’s 1901 Uniform Course of Study and its effect on Indian schools but she notes that it is “unclear” how much the curriculum outline by Reel was used by True at Santa Clara. Lawrence concludes: “Because of its focus on manual training with minimal academic preparation, the curriculum offered in OIA schools slotted Native students into particular socioeconomic outcomes” (p. 208). The boarding schools tended to devote a half-day each to academic and manual training. While too often the manual training consisted of menial labor to save taxpayer dollars, as the 1928 Meriam Report documented, it could also be used to apply academic training to “real world” situations. It is easy to forget that most non-Indian students of this era did not attend high school.
Some interesting side notes that Lawrence includes suggest how returned boarding school students at Santa Clara responded to more culturally relevant material. According to True, returned students enjoyed reading books written by other American Indians, specifically Charles Eastman’s Indian Boyhood, originally published in 1902, and Frances La Flesche’s The Middle Five: Indian Boys at School, originally published in 1900. She also describes students spending the summer in the model boarding school built on the grounds of the 1905 St. Louis World’s Fair. A longer discussion of this interesting interlude can be found in Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith’s Full-Court Quest: The Girls from Fort Shaw Indian School, Basketball Champions of the World (2008).
Some of Lawrence’s writing is repetitious and some is overly speculative in regard to what the Pueblo leadership, True, and Crandall were thinking. There is little coverage of the curriculum and pedagogy that True used with her students when compared to what Ann Nolan Clark experienced several decades later in a similar school at Tesuque Pueblo, experiences that she wrote about in Journey to the People (1969). Lawrence discusses how educational historians have moved the study of education beyond “schooling.” However, in the case of this study, the book moves away from education and anything about “lessons” in an Indian day school. What Lawrence documents is that there were multiple and non-educational demands on Indian schoolteachers, especially those who served in isolated one-room schools. The Pueblo Indians were more interested in land use, and the scarce jobs in the area, than curriculum, as studies of the Rough Rock Demonstration School in the 1970s have also found.
For the reader who wants to know more about Indian boarding schools, there are a number of recent detailed studies, such as Gilbert’s. Day schools have not received similar attention. Readers will have to wait for an in-depth study, as there simply is not much information in Lessons from an Indian School on True’s educational philosophy, her instructional practices, the curriculum she used, or the students she taught.
. See T. McCarty, “The Rough Rock Demonstration School: A Case History with Implications for Educational Evaluation,” Human Organization 46, no. 2 (1987): 103-112.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-education.
Jon Reyhner. Review of Lawrence, Adrea, Lessons from an Indian Day School: Negotiating Colonization in Northern New Mexico, 1902-1907.
H-Education, H-Net Reviews.
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