Ancillary citizenship and stratified assimilation: How American Indian Education was developed to force American Indians into the United States economy as reserve laborers
by Kimberly Richards
Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnic Studies
University of California, Berkeley
Professor Thomas Biolsi, Chair
In 1933, the newly appointed director of Education for the Indian Service, Dr. William Carson Ryan, the director of Extension and Industry, A.C. Cooley, and R.M. Tisinger, State Supervisor of Indian Education of Arizona, took a tour of four Mexican States on behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This trip was to assess the school systems the Mexican government had been implementing in rural indigenous communities. It was especially enticing for these progressive educators, given that the director of the program was none other than Dr. Moises Saenz, a student of John Dewey. What was it about this rural school program that was so enticing to these three men? As lead investigator of the educational section of the Meriam report, Ryan had advocated for a more progressive form of education, one that would utilize the child’s surrounding community and environment as a integral part of the learning process. However, just as Indian educational models had done in the past, progressivism, as it would be used for Native students as well as racialized minorities and newly arrived immigrants, was deeply entrenched in liberal protestant American values, norms and beliefs.
In order to understand the trajectory of progressive education as it was thought to apply to Indian students, it is important to gauge the dialogue and rhetoric surrounding the transition. With this research in mind this dissertation aims to reconstruct and question the policies, practices and motivations that enabled the BIA to maintain a long-standing assimilation policy through schooling. In particular this dissertation asserts that rather than shifting policy towards an ambitious liberal agenda of cultural acceptance, the union of policy makers and educators of the progressive era further entrenched the assimilation project.
Yet, only a handful of scholars have focused their analysis on the progressive era, and an even smaller cohort has been able to illuminate the longer assimilation trajectory of Indian education and BIA aspirations. This dissertation adds to this small body of work in part by arguing that the purpose of Indian schooling was to incrementally force Native peoples into American intuitions, not to usher in a new era of cultural pluralism or acceptance. Moreover, the initial steps of this assimilation educational policy, which were focused on creating a reserve labor force of ancillary citizens also laid the foundation for mid-twentieth century BIA Relocation efforts.