Colonialism and Its Consequences Forcing Research Paper

Pages: 5 (2007 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Native Americans

Colonialism and Its Consequences

Forcing Assimilation through the Guise of Education

Looking back at some of the justification used for the brutal treatment of native cultures during the period of colonialism really makes no sense from a modern perspective. In the diverse world we live in today, the arrogant and oppressive nature of the white majority culture in its dealings with indigenous tribes is utterly disturbing. Colonizers viewed themselves as superior, and thus took a place of authority over native groups. They believed it was thus their duty to civilize native peoples who were unfamiliar with the colonizer's customs, and thus did so through coercive method. This generated the intense cultural domination through forced assimilation of indigenous populations into the mainstream culture. The film The Rabbit Proof Fence and the book it is based on clearly show the majority culture preying on the youth of indigenous cultures to try to force assimilation cloaked as education, a theme which is echoed when examining the history behind the Carlisle Indian Schools which faced similar oppression from the white majority.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Research Paper on Colonialism and Its Consequences Forcing Assignment

The Carlisle Indian School was a boarding school which aimed to bring Western education and customs to Native Americans at the turn of the 19th century. It was open from 1879 to 1918 and was the first federally funded boarding school specifically for Native Americans. Government documents of the time period describe the dark motivations of forcing assimilation to the white culture as the primary motive of funding education programs for Native Americans. Captain Richard Pratt's writings are a main primary source which help describe the feelings and beliefs of the white majority at the time. Pratt writes "that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man" (Pratt 1). This clearly illustrates the mistaken belief of superiority to Native Americans. Native Americans were seen as inferior, and thus these boarding schools aimed at eradicating any bit of traditions and culture of the Native American students in order to get more to assimilate to the majority white culture. Pratt also wrote that "we have never made any attempt to civilize them with the idea of taking them into the nation, and all of our policies have been against citizenizing and absorbing them" (Pratt 1). This oppressive attitude helped generate the support for schools assimilating Native Americans.

These efforts were justified as civilizing the native peoples, which was seen as a huge improvement to their traditional customs and lifestyles. However, the reality of the school was much more dark. Just like in the case of the Aboriginal children in Follow the Rabbit Proof Road, these children were often abducted against their will and put into a situation where they were forced to assimilate. Anything related to Native American culture was confiscated and students were prohibited from speaking in their tribal languages. This type of coercion was accepted thanks to propaganda as the Civilization Regulations of the 1880s. Original documents of the time period show that native customs and traditions were considered "a hindrance to the civilization of a tribe," and thus efforts to assimilate Native American youth should "adopt any means to prevent the attendance of children at the agency schools, or use arts of a conjurer to prevent the Indians from abandoning their heathenish rites and customs" (Harjo 1). The majority culture even went as far as to prohibit students, of both sexes, from having long hair. Every aspect and tradition was robbed from the students, who were forced into a majority style of living. Thus, "it was a breeding ground for dysfunction, where children were abused and learned to be abusive to others or themselves, or to disassociate" completely (Harjo 1). By the time the school was close in 1918, "more than 10,000 Native young people had been drenched, if not drowned, in 'civilization'" (Harjo 1). Too many Native American children had been taken against their will and forced to assimilate on some level with the majority culture. It was cloaked as an effort to educate various tribes, but really it was a target to assimilate the most vulnerable individuals within indigenous tribes. This was a strategy that was followed in the move The Rabbit Proof Fence.

The Rabbit-Proof Fence is a movie based on a telling book, Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence written by Doris Garimara Pilkington. The two works both tell the true tale of a group of girls fleeing the coerced assimilation of majority boarding schools, which were essentially trying to stamp out minority culture altogether. The film and the book portray the plight of three young girls who were taken from their homes and forced into a state run boarding school. The girls were being forced to leave their families under the Aborigines Act in 1931. The act ordered all mixed children, with aboriginal and white blood, to be removed from aboriginal homes and sent to boarding schools run by members of the majority culture. This type of government mandates are unfamiliar today because of the hostile nature of the assumptions for their creation. Regulations such as the Aborigines Act of 1931 show the white majority claiming superiority over the native peoples. According to the book, "Molly, Gracie and Daisy came from a remote community in the north-west of Western Australia where the white population tended to stick tightly together," (Pilkington 85). The white population of Australia at the time believed itself to be superior to the native Aborigines. Essentially, "the common belief of the time was that half castes were smarter than full blood blacks" (Pilkington 40). This created an unfortunate situation where these individuals were torn between their native culture and the majority white culture that was demanding their full assimilation. Those of mixed race faced even more stress and anxiety because they were torn between two opposing cultures. The native culture was being stamped out by the white majority culture. This often created tension in those who were of mixed race, as seen in the case of Molly; "as she grew older, Molly often wished that she didn't have light skin" (Pilkington 38). In fact, all three girls were in constant conflict because of their mixed race (Noyce 2002). It was their mixed heritage that had them abducted. The majority culture wanted to force them to assimilate, and thus coerced them by abducting them and placing them into boarding schools which only taught curriculum from a majority cultural perspective.

This type of government action was justified by claiming it was in the girls' best interest to leave their limited homelands and enter into the more modern world, where they could thrive. The government portrayed to citizens that it was trying to civilize mixed race youths so that they could thrive in a modern culture. However, it was simply a ploy to try to force assimilation of Aboriginal youths. These schools demanded full assimilation, as seen in both the film and the book. To the characters, it was clear that "if you go to the school you don't see your family for years and years" (Pilkington 60). They were prohibited from speaking their native language or enjoying any familiar indigenous customs and traditions form home while they were away at Moore River Native Settlement (Noyce 2002). The film shows how difficult it was for the three main characters, as well as all the other children forced into the same situation. Unfortunately, "it was more like a concentration camp, then a residential school for aboriginal children" (Pilkington 72). This clearly represents the majority culture forcing the native culture to assimilate or remain an isolated majority on the fringe of society.

Those who assimilated without holding on to who they once were saw rewards from the majority culture. In fact, "the best land was taken up by the more wealthy, influential people who had the responsibility of maintaining their customs. They were advised to 'keep up their Englishness' at all costs" (Pilkington 12). Those natives who turned their back on their heritage and embraced white society were rewarded, while those who objected were often punished and ultimately silenced during the period of colonialism. The majority culture was, in many ways, trying to stamp out the Aboriginal culture. As such, the "post'-colonial psyche of this period, and its belief, representative of the period, that Aboriginal people were bound for extinction" (Brewster 1). Based on the coercive nature of their actions, the white majority clearly was trying to force indigenous people to assimilate or face the punishment of being completely isolated from society. This created a notion that if one wanted to survive in the modern space, one would have to assimilate. From this perspective, Brewster suggests that "the figuring of a decolonized, mythic space is an important political and imaginative act providing indigenous people with a sense of autonomy and solidarity and enabling their survival amidst a continuing legacy of dispossession and loss" (1). Ultimately, the majority culture was confiscating all space and rights from the indigenous people.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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