Cover image for Indian school : teaching the white man's way
Indian school : teaching the white man's way
Cooper, Michael L., 1950-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Clarion Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
v, 103 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1100 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 7.4 2.0 45686.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 9 5 Quiz: 18596 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E97.5 .C66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In 1879 eighty-four Sioux boys and girls became the inaugural group of students to be enrolled at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Carlisle was the first institution opened by the federal government for the education of Native American children. The brainchild of former Indian fighter Captain Richard Pratt, Carlisle, like other schools that followed, was established to teach Indian children the "white man's way." For some, like Olympian Jim Thorpe, Indian School led to success and prosperity, but for many others it was an education in alienation and isolation. Michael L. Cooper examines the Indian Schools and tells the personal stories, often in their own words, of several young students, including Zitkala-Sa, who wrote, "Like a slender tree, I had been uprooted from my mother, nature, and God."

Author Notes

Michael L. Cooper has written books on various aspects of American history for young adults, including a companion book, Fighting for Honor: Japanese Americans and World War II, which was named a 2002 Best Book for Young Adults.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-10. "All of a sudden I was snatched away from those who loved and cared for me." This moving photo-essay is simply told and focused on the personal. The quotes from individual children of many Indian nations, together with the stirring black-and-white archival group photos and individual portraits, tell the brutal history of the Indian boarding schools, which removed children from their "savage" homes to "civilize" them and teach them to live like white people. In the military-style schools, children were stripped of their hair, their clothes, their names; they were forbidden to speak their languages. For some children, homesickness nearly overpowered them, even killed them; when some children finally did return to their parents, they didn't fit in. Yet there's no romanticism about tribal innocence: Cooper quotes some leaders and children who welcomed the chance to learn the invaders' ways, even as he shows that the forced assimilation was an unspeakable cruelty. There are occasional misleading generalizations about Indians "on the warpath," the role of women, etc.; but for the most part, Cooper is careful to distinguish individual differences among Indian nations. A serious drawback is the lack of source notes, even for direct quotes, and the bibliography is uneven, with no mention, for example, of Shirley Sterling's landmark autobiographical boarding-school novel, My Name Is Seepeetza (1997). However, the spacious design, with thick paper and photos on every page, will draw even middle-grade readers to the children's accounts. The list of Web sites will encourage those who want to read more about this savage experiment that failed, a dark part of American history that for too long has gone largely untold for young readers. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cooper (The Double V Campaign: African Americans and World War II) delivers a well-documented and sobering depiction of the late-19th-century military-style boarding schools established to instruct children of various Indian tribes in "the white man's way." The author sets the stage in 1879 when Captain Richard Pratt, an officer in the U.S. Army, arrives to take the first trainload of "students" from their respective reservations to the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania. With the Battle of Little Bighorn and the loss of the Black Hills fresh in their memory, Spotted Tail, White Thunder and other Sioux leaders heed Pratt's warning of the dangers of illiteracy. Carlisle, a grueling institution run by Pratt, would become the most prominent Indian School and a model to others, but White Thunder's son would not survive the experience. A caption beneath a stark photograph of Carlisle's rows of gravestones notes, "Most BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] schools had their own cemeteries because so many students died." Quotes from former students at Carlisle and other such schools describe what it was like to forcibly have their hair cut (the Sioux cut their hair only as a sign of sadness or shame; for the Hopi, long hair symbolized fertility), to be removed from their families and to be forbidden to speak their language. Anecdotes about teachers who helped realize the dreams of some youths and the remarkable feats of the schools' athletic teams plus an impressive selection of archival photos (including one of a four-year-old student) round out this wrenching account. Ages 9-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-In the late 19th century, government-supported boarding schools were created to educate and assimilate Native American children into the overriding white culture. Cooper examines the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, one of the best known of the boarding schools, and some of its former students. The founder of Carlisle, Captain Richard Henry Pratt, was a former Buffalo soldier and Indian fighter, which may have adversely affected his treatment of Native children and their families. Individual student accounts, as well as fascinating photographs from the National Archives and the Army War College archives, add personal touches to the work. It is difficult to overstate the damages inflicted by these institutions on Native families. The author attempts to show some of the positive experiences, including the athletic development of Jim Thorpe, but glosses over the painful realities of the schools. Students were often kidnapped from their families and forced to abandon their languages, ways of life, and traditions to be assimilated into white culture. Good intentions aside, the boarding schools were part of an effort to destroy Native ways of life, which cannot be examined unemotionally or without a great deal of study. It is apparent that the author has no background in Native studies as offensive generalizations about beliefs and practices, as well as the use of improper names, flow throughout the book. While the boarding schools need to be studied, librarians and teachers should seek out individual accounts by former inhabitants rather than confuse students with this stereotypical and inaccurate work.-Mary B. McCarthy, ACLIN/Colorado State Library, Denver (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.