Differentiating Sources from Indian Boarding Schools

Carlisle Pupils
Carlisle Pupils

unknown author, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carlisle_pupils.jpg, 9/28/15

For teaching eleventh (or eighth) grade US History students corroborating and sourcing: This will be taught at the end of the first semester, in a learning segment on Indian boarding schools in the 1880’s.


Sourcing and Corroborating

The three sources:

  • Richard Henry Pratt’s discussion of the “Indian Problem” and the need and success of boarding school’s for Native children: Richard Henry Pratt
  • A letter from a young Indian girl in a boarding school (begin reading at the second “The Indians” to “The Chinese” on page 141) Letter
    • It is important to remember that these letters were forced, they were read and edited by boarding school officials and often times students were told what to write.
  • Reflection (Begin reading at “THE CUTTING OF MY LONG HAIR” on page 186 end on “THE DEVIL” on page 189)Reflection
    • This was written by Zitkala Sa. She was a victim of the Indian boarding schools. Her narration is vivid but avoids the graphic imagery of some of the physical abuse that occurred. For more information on her follow this link.

Scaffolding questions:

    1. What happened in the boarding schools?
    2. Why were students there?
    3. How did they describe the school?
    4. Complete a rhetorical triangle for it!

Instructional strategies:

  1. Students form groups of three. Together they read one of the three pieces and answer the scaffolding questions.
  2. Students form a second group composed of themselves and two people who read the other pieces. In this group students briefly explain their article and, as a group, fill in a Venn Diagram (three circles) using the questions they answered in their first group.
  3. As a class we discuss their Venn diagram. Posing the questions “Why aren’t all the answers in the center portion?”  “What can we learn from the information in the center?” “What can we infer about the information that overlaps between two circles but not all three?” “What does this tell us about the sources that overlap most?”
  4. Students write a question that is best answered by the reflection. Then answer it with a one page quick-write.


Reflection: I will need to type out some of the sources in order to shorten them because they are scans and not word documents that one could copy and paste. While presenting I realized that it may work well with younger students as an introduction but I still worry about the emotional and psychological effects of discussing such a serious and traumatic subject. I cannot use it unfortunately because I am with sixth grade English students. I also think I could instead provide them with eight questions and ask them to decide which source or sources would answer each best and then ask them to answer one of them.


Rhetorical trianglemethods

Three circle Venn Diagrammethods2

We Found a Lot of Naked People

Central Historical Question: What were the European perceptions of the natives in the New World?

Historical Skills: Corroborating

Topic: Colonization of the New World

Grade Level: 8th


Have students read the two diary entries from Christopher Columbus and decide whether they think it is enough evidence for for historians to understand European perceptions of natives. Then, have them read the two additional documents from Amerigo Vespucci and the London Company and decide whether they corroborate Columbus and why.


Question A: Explain why a historian might or might not believe that the excerpts from Columbus’ diary provide enough evidence to understand European perceptions of Native Americans.

Diary of Christopher Columbus. 1492

Thursday, 11 October.

Here follow the precise words of the Admiral: “As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk’s bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse’s tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots.” These are the words of the Admiral.

Saturday, October 13

This is a large and level island, with trees extremely flourishing, and streams of water; there is a large lake in the middle of the island, but no mountains: the whole is completely covered with verdure and delightful to behold. The natives are an inoffensive people, and so desirous to possess any thing they saw with us, that they kept swimming off to the ships with whatever they could find, and readily bartered for any article we saw fit to give them in return, even such as broken platters and fragments of glass.

Source: Fordham University

Question B: Read the additional documents from Amerigo Vespucci and Virginia Company. Does each document support the diary excerpts from Columbus? If they cannot be used to support Columbus’ claims, explain why not.

Letter by Amerigo Vespucci, 1503

We found a lot of naked people. they have no laws, and no religion. They just live by nature. They own nothing, and share every thing. They have no country, borders or king. It seems that everyone is his own master.

They live together in huts, built without any metal. What a surprise, I have seen houses 220 feet long, and 30 feet wide that can hold 500 people. They sleep in hammocks of cotton; they sit on the ground and eat the roots of herbs, or fruits and fish.

They are cruel people, but I don’t understand why they go to war. They don’t fight for power or to take things from their enemies. When we asked them about this, they said they fought as payback for the murder of their families.

Source: Peter Pappas

Virginia Company of London, 1622

It will be easier to conquer them, than civilize them. They are a rude, barbarous, naked people, scattered in small villages. This would help us to defeat them. It would also make it tough to civilize them. We can conquer them all at once. Civilizing them is slow and will take much more effort.

We can have victory over them many ways– by force, surprise, and famine.We can burn their corn, boats, canoes, houses and fishing equipment. We can disrupt their hunting. That’s how they get most of their winter food. We can chase them with our horses and bloodhounds, and our big mastiff dogs will tear them apart.

Source: Peter Pappas

About the Assessment:

Students should be able to use the sources to figure out whether or not the sources are enough to make a judgement and whether or not they support one another and why.

Question A:

Students should note that while the source is very detailed, it is the account of only one man who was also known for bending the truth to achieve his aims. The account is, on the other hand, reliable in that it is written in the time period it describes by someone who experienced it first hand before anyone else, so his response is not marred by the bias of others before him. Regardless, what Columbus say may not be representative of all Europeans.

Question B:

Student should see that the two additional accounts support European perceptions of natives as backward and savage peoples though they are written years apart. They should also be able to cite specific similarities in the accounts, such as seemingly simple lifestyles and modest housing.


What I really enjoyed about creating this lesson using the SHEG model was how it genuinely encouraged students to think like historians through emphasis on sourcing, contextualizing, and corroborating. Students are given concrete ways to look at the sources and practice these skills in a way that is not intimidating, but that still allows them to use primary sources. It’s fantastic to see so many lessons that get students to engage with the material directly and make their own arguments instead of being told what to think from a textbook. I look forward to implementing some of these lesson plans and seeing how students feel about them as well.

Who Are We? A Mini-Lesson on Assimilation through Education

Chiricahua_Apaches_as_they_arrived_at_Carlisle_from_Fort_Marion_Florida(1) Chiricahua_Apaches_four_months_after_arriving_at_Carlisle(1)

 A lesson in corroboration for 8th grade students

by Christy Thomas

In this lesson, students compare two John Choate photographs from 1886, Chiricahua Apaches as they arrive at Carlisle from Fort Marion, Florida & Chiricahua Apaches four months after arriving at Carlisle. Using the quotations from Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher, students are asked to examine two contrasting pieces of information to learn how Native Americans and the Euro-Americans disagreed on assimilation through education.

“If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans; in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in the sight of the Great Spirit. It is not necessary, that eagles should be crows.”

–Sitting Bull (Teton Sioux)

“The common schools are the stomachs of the country in which all people that come to us are assimilated within a generation. When a lion eats an ox, the lion does not become an ox but the ox becomes a lion.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

Background Information: From the 1879 to 1918, the Carlisle School trained Native American children in academics and trade skills. The school operated on a deserted military base in Central Pennsylvania.

Question 1: As you compare the children in these photographs, what are some of the major changes that took place?

Question 2:  Do you believe Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher felt similarly about assimilation? What factors would have caused Sitting Bull and Henry Ward Beecher to view assimilation differently? How do the two messages differ?

Creating a mini-lesson based on historical thinking skills was a great exercise in thinking outside the box. I found it challenging to adjust my thinking from simple recall to more analytical questions. In this lesson, I hope to step outside of a lecture mode and let students take ownership of their learning process. I see emphasizing historical thinking skills as a great way to help students connect the past to the present lives.

I enjoyed working with my classmates to fine tune the mini-lessons. It was nice to work together to improve our final products and discuss the best way to engage students.


Images from the Library of Congress Primary Source sets: http://1.usa.gov/1msgsaM

Quotations taken from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School history: http://bit.ly/1msheVi

Conqueror vs. Resident DBQ Reflection

By: Tom Malone

The learning goals of this DBQ enable students to formulate a viewpoint about a crucial point in world history through opposing perspectives. Students can interpret primary documents, architecture, and more modern images in order to obtain the European viewpoint as well as the Christopher-Columbus-631equally important Native American resident perspective. Students will enhance their primary document interpretation skills and their ability to interpret source validity.

This DBQ project achieves these goals, though certain images could be enhanced and authenticated more precisely in order to give students enough information to critically analyze without giving too much information. Some prompts could include more information depending on the target audience and their prior contact with the subject matter.

As a thinking process, the DBQ serves as a strong element to any social studies lesson. The difficultly between including too much or too little information can be tricky. Selecting the proper document to present to students for analysis is the keystone to this method. DBQ design is delicate business, but it allows for freedom to reach common goals.

Investigate the DBQ: Cross-Cultural Contact between European Conquerors and Native Americans

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes