Date of Award

Fall 12-10-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Michael Kucher

Second Advisor

William Burghart


The purpose of this paper is to explore what role assimilation played in the education of Native girls, like my grandmother, who attended federal Indian boarding during the late 1800s through the early 1900s when federal boarding schools were most active. While Richard Henry Pratt sold the idea of federal boarding schools to the United States as a way to assimilate Natives into White culture, this paper will argue through the analysis of the Carlisle Indian School that the federal boarding schools’ true purpose was to eliminate the tribes by turning Native girls against them and using that control to create a second-class domestic workforce. To do this, I will explore five facets of the girls’ experiences in those schools: changing the external appearance of the girls, the outing system, how the students were pitted against each other, the financial burden the schools were under, religious indoctrination, and comparing and contrasting Native girls with White girls’ expectations. The research used in this paper includes secondary sources accessed through online journal archives and primary sources from a digital archive on Carlisle Indian School that include newspapers, letters, and telegrams. I focused on the Carlisle Indian School the most because as the government created more of the boarding schools across the country, they used Pratt’s as a base model. Thus, it explores what Native girls had to endure in the name of assimilation and brings light to a topic that has been shied away from in the national eye.