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Timeline / Defining Rights and Responsibilities / 1897: Indian boarding schools teach manual labor

1897: Indian boarding schools teach manual labor

Commissioner of Indian Affairs William A. Jones questions the potential of Indian students to compete or fully assimilate into the skilled workforce. Instead, Jones believes Indians are better suited to manual labor. With this agenda, he develops new off-reservation boarding schools across the West. An Office of Indian Affairs publication states: “... an Indian boy or girl will have to make their living by the ‘sweat of their brow,’ and not their brains.”

Teachers at the Phoenix Indian Industrial School compliment students for menial labor with accolades such as “[has] ambition enough to become more than an ordinary breadwinner,” but they warn an academically bright student that he is destined to be “a degenerate blanket Indian.”

Federal-Tribal Relations, Native Rights
Arctic, California, Great Basin, Great Plains, Northeast, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Southeast, Southwest, Subarctic

Neah Bay Indian School at Bahada Point on the Straits of Fuca, Washington Territory, ca. 1876–1896

Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration