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Indian Orphanages
     

Indian Orphanages

by Marilyn Irvin Holt
 

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With their deep tradition of tribal and kinship ties, Native Americans had lived for centuries with little use for the concept of an unwanted child. But besieged by reservation life and boarding school acculturation, many tribes-with the encouragement of whites-came to accept the need for orphanages.

The first book to focus exclusively on this subject, Marilyn

Overview

With their deep tradition of tribal and kinship ties, Native Americans had lived for centuries with little use for the concept of an unwanted child. But besieged by reservation life and boarding school acculturation, many tribes-with the encouragement of whites-came to accept the need for orphanages.

The first book to focus exclusively on this subject, Marilyn Holt's study interweaves Indian history, educational history, family history, and child welfare policy to tell the story of Indian orphanages within the larger context of the orphan asylum in America.

She relates the history of these orphanages and the cultural factors that produced and sustained them, shows how orphans became a part of native experience after Euro-American contact, and explores the manner in which Indian societies have addressed the issue of child dependency.

Holt examines in depth a number of orphanages from the 1850s to1940s-particularly among the "Five Civilized Tribes" in Oklahoma, as well as among the Seneca in New York and the Ojibway and Sioux in South Dakota. She shows how such factors as disease, federal policies during the Civil War, and economic depression contributed to their establishment and tells how white social workers and educational reformers helped undermine native culture by supporting such institutions. She also explains how orphanages differed from boarding schools by being either tribally supported or funded by religious groups, and how they fit into social welfare programs established by federal and state policies.

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 overturned years of acculturation policy by allowing Native Americans to finally reclaim their children, and Holt helps readers to better understand the importance of that legislation in the wake of one of the more unfortunate episodes in the clash of white and Indian cultures.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Riding the wave of interest in adoption issues and Native American history, Holt (The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America) examines the development of orphanages in a half-dozen major Native American tribes, covering the late 1800s, the Depression and the decades up to the 1978 federal reversal on Indian adoption policy. From the outset, community-oriented Indian society bewildered white missionaries and social workers, who deemed deviations from the nuclear family pernicious. Yet "orphans" didn't exist in, for instance, Shawnee culture, where tribal "grandmothers" helped raise the young, and families welcomed parentless children. Holt's balanced view of orphans' dual experience being equipped for mainstream culture and stripped of their own distinguishes her account. While most poor ethnics were subject to Americanization, Indians had it worse: many whites, bent on eliminating Native Americans, targeted orphanages, often the only available school. While many may have been awful (Holt doesn't say much about daily life), the orphanages kept kids on the reservation, unlike subsequent programs. Holt combs official reports, teasing her story out of dry numbers (enrollment stats, spending per pupil) from several orphanages. Thematic organization and further Indian perspectives (understandably scarce) would have made her book more accessible and compelling. Still, it's a useful, if turgid, volume for specialists. 19 photos not seen by PW. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Holt (The Orphan Trains) carefully examines the establishment of Indian orphanages in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a previously little-studied subject. She discusses the emergence of orphanages in tribal communities ranging from the Seneca to the Sioux and their provision of basic care, including education. In reality, those orphanages underscored the destructive interchange with Euro-American peoples. Orphanages became necessary, Holt contends, after "war, disease, starvation, relocation, removal, ill-conceived federal policies, and missionary influences" had transformed traditional networks and kinships. Many non-Indian administrators viewed orphanages as a means to ward off complete immersion in white society. All the while, the orphanages worked to acculturate Indian children into the mainstream. Beginning in the 1930s, social welfare programs, foster care, and adoptions supplanted orphanages, whose closure often resulted in children being separated from "their own people." Not until 1978, with the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, did Congress recognize "the transmission of Indian culture to future generations." Though the chronological makeup can be confusing and the prose occasionally leaden, this is a solid, well-researched study that scholars will appreciate. Recommended for academic libraries. R.C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700613632
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
10/28/2004
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
338
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)

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