Tradition, schools and little boy’s hair.

I know I’ve already posted about the similarities  between today’s school dress codes prohibiting long hair on boys and the Indian schools of the past. While I cannot prove that the Indian boarding school dress codes begat the modern school dress codes, one cannot help but compare the two and wonder about their relation to each other. I doubt the similarity is simply a matter of chance though.

 I found something today that I though would be good to post here. Its a copy of a letter sent by the Office of Indian Affairs to one of the Indian boarding schools in 1902. I found it here:

http://www.bluecloud.org/misunder.html

Department of the Interior
Office of Indian Affairs
Washington, January 13, 1902

The Superintendent,
Greenville School,
California.

Sir;

This Office desires to call your attention to a few customs among the Indians which, it is believed, should be modified or discontinued.

The wearing of long hair by the male population of your agency is not in keeping with the advancement they are making, or will soon be expected to make, in civilization. The wearing of short hair by the males will be a great step in advance and will certainly hasten their progress towards civilization. The returned male student far too frequently goes back to the reservation and falls into the old custom of letting his hair grow long. He also paints profusely and adopts all the old habits and customs which his education in our industrial schools has tried to eradicate. The fault does not lie so much with the schools as with the conditions found on the reservations. These conditions are very often due to the policy of the Government toward the Indian and are often perpetuated by the superintendent’s not caring to take the initiative in fastening any new policy on his administration of the affairs of the agency.

On many of the reservations the Indians of both sexes paint claiming that it keeps the skin warm in winter and cool in summer; but instead, this paint melts when the Indian perspires and runs down into the eyes. The use of this paint leads to many diseases of the eyes among those Indians who paint. Persons who have given considerable thought and investigation to the subject are satisfied that this custom causes the majority of the cases of blindness among the Indians of the Unites States.

You are therefore directed to induce your male Indians to cut their hair, and both sexes to stop painting. With some of the Indians this will be an easy matter; with others it will require considerable tact and perseverance on the part of yourself and your employes (sic) to successfully carry out these instructions. With your Indian employes (sic) and those Indians who draw rations and supplies it should be an easy matter as a non-compliance with this order may be made a reason for discharge or for withholding rations and supplies. Many may be induced to comply with the order voluntarily, especially the returned student. The returned students who do not comply voluntarily should be dealt with summarily. Employment, supplies, etc., should be withdrawn until they do comply and if they become obstreperous about the matter a short confinement in the guard-house at hard labor, with shorn locks, should furnish a cure. Certainly all the younger men should wear short hear, and it is believed that by tact, perseverance firmness, and withdrawal of supplies the superintendent can induce all to comply with this order.

The wearing of citizen’s clothing, instead of the Indian costume and blanket, should be encouraged.

Indian dances and so-called Indian feasts should be prohibited. In many cases these dances and feasts are simply subterfuges to ever degrading acts and to disguise immoral purposes. You are directed to use your best efforts in the suppression of these evils.

Very respectfully,

W.S.Jones
Commissioner

 If you have not already watched this video, you should. I posted it before and I feel pretty strongly about it.

Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDshQTBh5d4

So yeah…..

 

Lets all give a round of applause for tradition. ‘Cause you know, erasing someone’s cultural identity is something to be proud of. 

 

 

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