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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Indian Boarding Schools

By Kristy McCaffrey

During the 1800’s, when many Native Americans were forced onto reservations, the American government agreed to provide money, food, and education for their children. While this exchange proved to be largely detrimental to the Indian population, it was still believed that if they could learn to speak English, become Christian, and farm the land as European Americans did, then they would become successful in life. To this end, Christian churches began to open mission schools on reservations. Later, boarding schools were created with the idea that it would be easier to teach children a new way of life if they were taken from their own families and people. Boarding schools were established in 15 states or territories including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, California and Idaho. Children stayed anywhere from four to ten years.

While some parents readily agreed to send their children, believing they needed to learn English and new job skills, others refused. In many instances, the government forced the children to go. In 1895, a group of Hopi leaders were sent to Alcatraz Island for seven months because they wouldn’t send their children to a boarding school.

New students were stripped of their native clothing and given uniforms. Their hair was usually cut short, and they were given English names. They were punished if they used their native language. Their spiritual traditions were forbidden, replaced instead with church services and the observance of Christian holidays. The schools were often over-crowded and many children became sick, contracting influenza, tuberculosis, and measles.

While overwhelmingly negative for most children, one positive aspect was that many built lasting friendships with Native Americans from other tribes while at school together. It wasn’t until the mid-1900’s that most boarding schools were closed.

* * * * *

In my book, Into the Land of Shadows, a historical western romance set in the Arizona Territory, Ethan Barstow and Kate Kinsellawhile searching for Ethan's brother, Charleyfind three Hopi children hiding in the desert, on the run from nearby Keams Canyon Boarding School.

A steamy historical western romance set in 1893 Arizona Territory.

Carolyn Readers’ Choice Award Finalist

FREE in Kindle Unlimited

“…as if ‘Romancing The Stone’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ and ‘Dances With Wolves’ got together and had a kid.” ~ Armenia, Reading Alley Reviewer

Into the Land of Shadows is a must read. Kristy McCaffrey tells a story that is engaging and edge-of-the-seat gripping. Her vivid descriptions and great cast of characters, with exceptional dialogue, bring this story to life.”

            ~ Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance & More

Frustrated from enduring Kate’s close proximity for hours, Ethan decided it was high time he broke Brandy of her overwhelming fondness for her mama. How was he supposed to keep his distance if Kate rode so close to him all day? It was his own damn fault, of course, for not being stricter with his favorite mare. Ethan had a soft spot for Whiskey and honestly saw no problem allowing her to dote on her offspring. But it was a problem now. Kate Kinsella was a problem.

Movement off to the right caught his eye. An object flew toward him and he jerked forward in reflex as Kate screamed.

Ethan turned to see the rock smack her in the face and push her from Brandy. He struggled with Whiskey’s reins as the horse snorted and stepped backward. She wanted to bolt, but Ethan held her steady with one hand while pulling his gun with the other.

He shot in the direction of the hidden attacker. Or attackers? It couldn’t be the three bastards who wanted their donkey back. If it was, they were damn persistent. Ethan decided he would pay for the damn animal and be done with it.

He slid off Whiskey’s back and crouched low. He shot three more times as he rounded Brandy’s backside, hoping she wouldn’t kick him in the head.

As he reached Kate’s side Whiskey and Brandy bolted, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake and Ethan and Kate without cover. Fred was nowhere to be seen. There was no return gunfire so Ethan scooped Kate into his arms and ran quickly behind a rocky outcrop, keeping his gun pointed and ready. As he released her to the ground he saw blood oozing between her fingers where her hand covered her left eye.

“Jesus, Kate, are you all right?

“What was that?” She looked dazed.

“I think it was a rock,” Ethan replied. “Move your hand and let me have a look.” She complied and Ethan saw an open gash but luckily it had missed her eye. Still, it was nasty and needed immediate attention.

“You’re gonna be fine,” he said soothingly. She was going to have a humdinger of a scar, especially if he didn’t get it stitched up, but he didn’t really want to break that news to her yet.

“I’m bleeding a lot,” she said, staring at her bloodied hand.

“I know.” Ethan reloaded his gun. “Face wounds do that. I’m gonna take care of these sonsofbitches,” he said, anger filling his thoughts. “Stay here. I’ll get you cleaned up in no time.”

“Ethan—” He ignored Kate’s plea, stood and advanced on their attackers.

“You worthless scumbags!” he yelled. “Come on out and show yourselves.”

With his arm stretched long, he fixed his gun on the last known location of the rock thrower. No more shots in the legs or shoulders. If they didn’t surrender this time, he would kill them. Kate’s safety demanded it.

He heard the scuffle of rocks and dirt as someone, or several men, started to retreat. Ethan made a wide arc and moved quickly to the assailant's hideout.

“I’ll shoot,” he warned, his finger resting on the trigger and close to doing just that. He stopped short at the faces that stared back at him, wide-eyed and innocent.

The attackers were three young Indian children.

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  1. Kristy, I did a blog about Indian boarding schools and Indian hospitals--and it was chilling. I really love to learn, but this is a sobering subject, isn't it?

    When I taught novel writing classes, I had an elderly Choctaw woman in my class that was a storyteller. She would start talking and the entire class was enthralled. She'd lived in an orphanage, and then a hospital, most of her life, and the tales she could tell.

    I haven't told you lately, so it's time once again to say how much I LOVED Into the Land of Shadows. That is one EXCELLENT story!

    1. Thank you, Cheryl! Yes, Indian Boarding Schools is a very sobering subject. My great-grandfather worked at San Carlos with the Apache, and while I admire him I'm not sure I agree with his participation. I think the idea had good intentions but the outcome was far from a positive experience for these children and the parents who had to let them go. How gracious that Choctaw woman was to share her stories. Sometimes all we can do for someone is be a witness to their pain.

  2. Kristy,

    This forced assimilation reminds me of a family I know whose last name is 'Buffalo'. I asked if they had Native American heritage. They said no. Their family was from Italy, and when they came through Ellis Island, their last name was changed from 'Buffalino' (pronounced: Boo-FAH-lee-no) to Buffalo. That had to be so hard to deal with.

    1. That's a strange name change. A lot of families went thru that, unfortunately.

  3. Into the Land of Shadows is one of my favorite stories. The Indian school system is not. I can see how the so-called progressive whites would've thought it was a good idea at the time, but like so many things we do without a care for the repercussions, it did as much or more harm than good.

    1. Jacquie,
      I agree.
      I'm so glad you enjoyed the book!! Maybe Sassy and Bart can pair up for their own story. :-)

  4. Isn't it amazing to read about the arrogance of the European immigrants to this country who thought their way was the only way and used brutal tactics to dictate to others how they needed to change. How the government thought they had the right to take children from their homes in this manner is unimaginable.
    I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said, "When the government fears the people, you have freedom. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny."
    It's unsettling to see the instances where the government stepped beyond its authority to do what they thought was right and ruined the lives of innocent people--Indigenous People of the United States, The Japanese, Germans, African Americans, the Chinese, and so on. I have no problem with people who honor their heritage and keep some of their culture alive.
    An excellent post, Kristy.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful reply, Sarah. :-)

  5. Kristy, I too loved this story. And I also find it so hard to believe that we forced such spearations of Indian children from their families and then to add to that tried to obliterate their way of life and very beliefs. Such a shame and an atrocity. I applaud you on a writing such an intersting, enjoyable and emotionally packed story. Great blog.

    1. Bev,
      Thanks so much!! And I'm so pleased you liked the book. :-) Hugs!

  6. A very good blog, with lots of information. Not the best show of compassion, that's for sure. But they say the 'the best intentions pave the way...'. I love your book, by the way. Doris