The Thomas Indian School And The "Irredeemable" Children Of New York (The Iroquois And Their Neighbors)
The Thomas Indian School and the "Irredeemable" Children of New York (The Iroquois and Their Neighbors)
The story of the Thomas Indian School has been overlooked by history and historians even though it predated, lasted longer, and affected a larger number of Indian children than most of the more well-known federal boarding schools. Founded by the Presbyterian missionaries on the Cattaraugus Seneca Reservation in western New York, the Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children, as it was formally named, shared many of the characteristics of the government-operated Indian schools. However, its students were driven to its doors not by Indian agents, but by desperation. Forcibly removed from their land, Iroquois families suffered from poverty, disease, and disruptions in their traditional ways of life, leaving behind many abandoned children.
The story of the Thomas Indian School is the story of the Iroquois people and the suffering and despair of the children who found themselves trapped in an institution from which there was little chance for escape. Although the school began as a refuge for children, it also served as a mechanism for “civilizing” and converting native children to Christianity. As the school’s population swelled and financial support dried up,...