THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NATIVE IDENTITY

A report in 1887, by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, noted the significance of educating Indians in the wonders of the English language, and wrote as follows:

A wider and better knowledge of the English language among them is essential to their comprehension of the duties and obligations of citizenship. At this time but few of the adult population can speak a word of English, but with the efforts now being made by the Government and by religious and philanthropic associations and individuals, especially in the Eastern States, with the missionary and the schoolmaster industriously in the field everywhere among the tribes, it is to be hoped, and it is confidently believed, that among the next generation of Indians the English language will be sufficiently spoken and used to enable them to become acquainted with the laws, customs, and institutions of our country.

Prior, the “Peace Commission,” by Sherman, Harney, Sanborn, Terry, Taylor, Henderson, Tappan, and Augur, reported on the situation of Indian tribes, noting the follwing:

By civilizing one tribe others would have followed. Indians of different tribes associate with each other on terms of equality; they have not the Bible, but their religion, which we call superstition, teaches them that the Great Spirit made us all. In the difference of language to-day lies two-thirds of our trouble. … Schools should be established, which children should be required to attend; their barbarous dialects should be blotted out and the English language substituted.