Richard Henry Pratt

As the United States continued to move west with the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, a force often stood in the way. For many years the United States has pushed Native American’s off of their land and further west, but now, that land was also needed to build the railroad that would connect the east and west. Both the army and the tribes would put up a fight but it would be the United States that would be victorious and would then take the land they needed.

Richard Henry Pratt, a U.S. Army officer, founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This location began the institutionalization of Native American youth in an effort to fully assimilate the Indian into Euro-American culture. In his notable speech at an 1892 convention, Pratt brought light to the true meaning behind the schools. He agreed with the statement “the only good Indian is a dead one” but followed it with his own, now infamous line, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man” 2. Richard Henry Pratt still valued the human that was a Native American but did not want any of the cultures that went with the individuals. Essentially, Pratt saw white American culture as the only culture to be accepted and in a report by Israel C. Barrows after the Lake Mohonk Conference in 1902, Pratt affirmed this view by also including the profound African American population. He sighted that the newly freed African American population was working to be one of, as he says, “us” which he means as the white man. 3

In the "Kill the Indian, Save the Man" speech, Pratt backs the history in his decisions by putting himself as an advocate for the Native American population. Though he does have good intentions on paper, the methods and ideology behind the actions are unethical and genocidal to a specific culture. When discussing history, he mentions that the removal of Indians in the past was because of the American purchase of land. He continues that the population should not fall victim to anymore battles with the American troops to then be put into reservations. These reservations, in the opinion of Pratt, are removing them from society and treating them as an "other". Where this does seem sympathetic on the end of the advocate, he urged these Native populations to part from their land that, within their culture is sacred and of spiritual meaning, to become a part of the roaring American society. He makes a comparison to the African American population in the United States as well. Following his strong opinion, he words that slavery was a destructive means for the United States to move a population but we ultimately saved Africans from the "cannibalism in darkest Africa to the citizenship in free and enlightened America." So, following, it was destructive of Americans to fight many wars against the Native Americans and continuing to put them in reservations is also hindering their assimilation into society. Pratt is often against the Bureau of Indian Affairs because he believed they supported the segregation of Native American's onto the reservations and is what is funding it, though they also helped fund the Indian School's he created and influenced. He finishes his speech with the statement "We make our greatest mistake in feeding our civilization to the Indians instead of feeding the Indians to our civilization" which drives home the point that with the Indians not a part of the traditional American way of life, they are lost and inferior to the white.3 & 4