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12AD.7.5a Visiting a fruit packing house

People watching crates of oranges move on a conveyor belt in a packing house

circa 1935-1950
Sherman Indian Museum

Visiting a fruit packing house, circa 1935-1950; Sherman Indian Museum collection, Sherman Indian Museum

Boarding schools such as Sherman Institute sought to assimilate and acculturate American Indian students. These photographs illustrate ways that students trained at the school. Why do you think the school emphasized industrial education rather than a college preparation education? How do you think Native students engaged with this curriculum? What type of career was the program preparing them for? How do these images provide evidence to understand the role that tribal, state, and federal governments played in shaping education for students?
School officials intended for students at Sherman to train in industrial and domestic programs. They gave little thought to the notion that Native American boys and girls might attend college. The government planned for Sherman students to blend into the dominant society, not as doctors, lawyers, business executives, professors, or politicians but as laborers, domestic help, and tradespeople. Given this curriculum, the boarding school was an institutional training ground where colonized Native Americans were supposed to learn subservience. The concept of Native Americans as a colonized group stems from a scholarly term called settler colonialism. Settler colonialism describes a unique process of colonization in which the invasive settlers increase in power and size, over time replacing indigenous populations. The practices of military regimentation, uniform dress, and domesticity training flowed from the federal vision of boarding school as a complete transformative experience, training Native Americans for their place as a detribalized social and economic underclass. Additionally, the gendered curriculum providing girls few options of study meant that coursework featured sewing, cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Some girls trained as nurses. Working and living near their schools, boys worked mainly as laborers, cutting, baling, and stacking hay and picking crops. Boys learned tailoring, blacksmithing, carpentry, and other trades as well. Girls were employed in the "domestic sciences" as cooks, maids, and babysitters. Students can consider these images as they collect evidence about the ways in which tribal, state, and federal government agencies determined curriculum.