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 Katherine M. Osburn (Arizona State University)
Published on H-SHGAPE (July, 2012)
Commissioned by Julia Irwin (University of South Florida)
Education beyond the Classroom: Navigating Assimilation Policy in Progressive-Era New Mexico
The lessons Adrea Lawrence draws from the Santa Clara Indian Day School in northern New Mexico are not the lessons that many historians interested in pedagogy and curriculum in Indian schools might want to learn. Lessons from an Indian Day Schoo lis not focused on educational policy but rather on what Lawrence terms “the learnings” that occurred as government administrators, Indians, and Hispanos maneuvered around complex issues of colonialism at the Santa Clara Pueblo. As she states in her introduction: “This book is an education history, but it is not about the school. Rather, it uses a school as a prism for looking at the educative processes associated with colonization and racialization in the New Mexico Territory at the turn of the twentieth century” (p. 1). Following the lead of educational theorists Bernard Bailyn, David Labaree, and Richard Storr (disciples of philosopher John Dewey), Lawrence contrasts schooling (curriculum, pedagogy, and assimilation policy) with learning, which she defines as “the internal, individual process that shapes how one understands the world by connecting experiences with new knowledge, skills and attitudes” (p. 172). In this respect, this work is best understood not as another study of an Indian school, but rather as representative of a new focus in scholarship on federal Indian policy that concentrates on the lived experiences of the historical actors.
Two of the finest examples of this approach to assimilationist directives, Margaret D. Jacobs’s White Mother to a Dark Race and Cathleen D. Cahill’s Federal Fathers and Mothers, identify efforts to assimilate Indians as part of the development of the modern national state, which reflects federal attempts to extend the hegemony of the white middle and upper classes over the poor and racial and ethnic minorities. Both Jacobs and Cahill provide close evaluations of the interactions between those empowered to carry out government programs and the Native peoples with whom they interacted. As Cahill notes, such a method “demonstrates the unexpected outcomes that resulted when policy makers’ assumptions collided with what actually happened on the ground with the employees."
Like both Jacobs and Cahill, Lawrence’s work reveals the gaps between policy and practice in Indian affairs. Seen from this perspective, the book enhances our understanding of Indian Service schools as places where federal agendas were contested and reshaped, not only by students, as recent works on boarding schools demonstrate, but also by administrators and teachers who found themselves confronted with problems that lay outside of their scripted tasks. In Lawrence’s study, deeper understanding of the local context in which everyone operated provides sharper analysis of how federal directives were appropriated and carried out. Unlike Jacobs and Cahill, Lawrence does not link these processes to the formation of the national state. Rather, her focus is on cultural interactions in a very particular contact field, one bounded by a specific set of sources.
Lawrence draws her analysis primarily from 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 at Santa Clara Pueblo from 1902 to 1907. The Indian Service charged Crandall and True with assimilating the Pueblo Indians according to a very explicit set of guidelines, yet their correspondence rarely focused on pedagogy. Rather, the primary day-to-day concerns of the people of northern New Mexico--land tenure, public health, citizenship, relationships between Indians, Hispanos, and Anglos, and tensions surrounding cultural tourism--took most of their time and attention. As they wrestled over these issues, each group negotiated relations of power and autonomy with the others within the colonial context of the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA). Lawrence argues that these negotiations were a multi-generational “educative process” that transformed how individuals interpreted the world and their respective places in it (p. 14). The study begins with the site of this learning--the land itself.
The territory True and Crandall administered were the homelands of the Tewa-speaking peoples of the Santa Clara Pueblo, but Hispanos had practiced communal grazing on these lands since the seventeenth century. For the Indians, the land was sacred and sustaining. For the Hispanic population, it was also a homeland where they built communities and learned how to live on the land from their Indian neighbors. When the United States took possession of the region after the Mexican War, land became a commodity to be administered for the economic and assimilative purposes of colonialism. Because the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo upheld the Puebloan peoples’ collective rights to their lands, they were vulnerable to dispossession by encroaching Anglos and Hispanics. State officials who wanted to create a park from Santa Clara’s Puye cliff dwellings proposed ruinous tax rates to obtain the land, and Hispanos filed suit to retain their claims to Pueblo lands under the new administration. As the representative of the U.S. government, Crandall mediated these conflicts. Crandall encouraged the Puebloans to maintain their communal land rights by ceding title to their property to the federal government, which would hold the land in trust for them. Crandall invoked the Indians’ rights against both Anglos and Hispanos, and some Hispanic families who had grazed in the Santa Clara Canon for generations were forced to abandon their ranches. Lawrence concludes that, “From each group’s orientation, the land was the physical site of learning, shifting colonial relationships, legal expectations, and geographic arrangements such that the land itself became a participant in the process” (p. 64). This story of land transfer complicates the standard narrative of Indian dispossession during the Progressive Era and also provides an interesting twist to the Indians’ struggle for full citizenship.
Indian policy at this time was based on the General Allotment Act of 1887 (also known as the Dawes Act, after its chief sponsor Henry Dawes), which called for dividing Indian land bases into individual allotments for the goal of assimilating Native Americans. The Dawes Act had linked land ownership with citizenship, although the terms under which said citizenship was granted shifted several times. The Pueblos, however, already held full U.S. citizenship under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Unlike other Indians under U.S. jurisdiction, they retained rights granted by Spanish and then Mexican authorities to buy and sell liquor. The land transfer that saved their homelands “demoted” the Indians from full citizens to wards of the federal government. Crandall lobbied hard to make sure this also meant they lost their rights to consume alcohol. Crandall’s crusade to end drinking among the northern Pueblos was classic paternalism. This approach sometimes clashed with Clara True’s maternalism.
Lawrence analyzes Clara True’s role at the day school by first documenting her experiences with the diphtheria outbreak of 1903. As the disease spread through the pueblo and the school, True had to convince Crandall that she was not exaggerating the epidemic and deflect his criticisms of her attempts to send children home from school as a means of quarantine (which Crandall charged was not her decision to make). True deferred to Crandall’s authority in her letters but continued to follow her own course. She also learned that she could not implement policy unilaterally through Pueblo leaders, who were not unified in their response and who had little authority over the decisions of mothers and grandmothers concerning their offspring. Eventually, everyone compromised to stop the epidemic. Both Crandall and the Indians had to learn to trust True’s approach to treatment, and, if she hoped to be effective, True had to learn to respect the Pueblos’ complex social and political hierarchy. The epidemic revealed the interactions between policymakers and Indians to be a series of shifting positions operating outside the official template for public health emergencies.
Similarly, Indians and administrators navigated sensitive issues of Indian representation in cultural tourism, specifically the 1904 St. Louis Expo. Lawrence notes that “understanding how to appear as both ‘good’ and ‘exotic’ Indians according to True’s and Crandall’s expectation was a basic requisite for Santa Clarans who wished to attend the St. Louis Expo” (p. 182). She provides examples of Indians who managed that balance but were constrained from going, not because Crandall or True refused them permission, but because Santa Clara governor Jose Jesus Naranjo needed their labor for the irrigation ditch. She also considers how participation in such displays was an affront to Pueblo communal values that stressed “conformity, anonymity, and modesty” (p. 182). Nonetheless, the fair helped some Pueblo Indians learn how to prepare goods for the tourist market and it drew visitors to New Mexico. Lawrence does not really tell us anything new about cultural tourism, but she frames the topic uniquely by discussing why Pueblo leaders might object to their kinsmen participating and how Santa Clarans learned to manipulate agency personnel and interact with a broader world. Thus, cultural tourism was also one area where “educative processes” operated between Santa Clarans, administrators, and tourists.
Lessons from an Indian Day School concludes with Lawrence’s assessment of the study of Indian education in the broader field of education history. She correctly notes that most studies of U.S. education neglect to include Indians, and most studies of Indian education focus on boarding schools. Day schools are indeed “untapped settings” for analyzing educational colonialism (p. 209). Lawrence has provided such an analysis in the most comprehensive sense of the term by defining education as learning, much of which occurred beyond the classroom. She has made imaginative use of a neglected collection of letters, teasing out information regarding what Indians, Hispanos, and Anglos discovered about negotiating colonial encounters. Historians familiar with Indian history have seen these types of interactions before, but have generally not been trained to think about them as a form of education, which we tend to conceptualize in terms of school operations. Although more discussion of the role of race and gender in shaping these encounters would have helped readers’ understanding of how colonialism operated in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Lessons from an Indian Day School succeeds as a study that proposes new ways to think about cross-cultural education. Indeed, Lawrence’s model is especially relevant to scholars of the Gilded Age/Progressive Era as an example of the approach that John Dewey took to understanding education.
. Cathleen D. Cahill, Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869-1933 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 12. See also Margaret D. Jacobs, White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternailsm, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1888-1940 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009).
. American Indian boarding schools epitomize one of the most visible representations of the misguided assimilationist policy of the Gilded Age/ Progressive Era, and the literature on these institutions is voluminous. The latest approach to this topic privileges the Indian perspective by using photographs, archival research, and oral histories, and moving beyond federal policy to evaluate the experiences of the students and families who endured these institutions. Boarding schools had diverse legacies. They were often harsh places where forced assimilation was painful and humiliating to students. Yet, ironically, they also fostered a pan-Indian identity among many students and created a generation of educated leaders who became active in struggles for tribal sovereignty. See Sally Hyer, One House, One Voice, One Heart: Native American Education at the Santa Fe Indian School (Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1990); K. Tsianina Lomawaima,They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994); Brenda Child, Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900–1940 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993); and Esther Burnett Horne and Sally McBeth, Essie's Story: The Life and Legacy of a Shoshone Teacher (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998).
. See John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed (New York: E. L. Kellogg, 1897, and How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1933).
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Katherine M. Osburn. Review of Lawrence, Adrea, Lessons from an Indian Day School: Negotiating Colonization in Northern New Mexico, 1902-1907.
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