Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Elliott West

Committee Member

James Gigantino

Second Committee Member

Patrick Williams


Social sciences, Education, American Indian history, Boarding schools, Haskell Institute, Native American history, Outing program, Phoenix Indian School


From the earliest years of the United States, its leaders wrestled with the perceived need to assimilate Indian peoples into American society. Many believed that Indians in their "natural" condition were cultural primitives incapable of taking part in national life. However, with proper guidance they could be elevated to a level of civilization that would allow them to join the national family. After the conclusion of the Indian Wars in the 1880's, the United States government began to address the continued "Indian" problem by establishing Indian boarding schools. Indian children attended school to learn to behave as white, Christian and productive members of society.

Students attending the off-reservation boarding schools, like the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas and the Phoenix Indian School in Phoenix, Arizona were taught the fundamentals of education and a trade so they could eventually provide for themselves and their families without government support. In order to further reinforce these principles, students participated in the outing program, where they could work for local white families. This program allowed students to develop working relationships with whites, earn spending money, and practice what they learned at school in a practical setting. While this program was initially designed to quickly assimilate native children into white, middle class society, the program ensnared Native Americans in a constant state of wage labor. Students who graduated from the boarding schools often could not find jobs within their trade and many who returned home were ostracized for not knowing their traditional language and customs. These students, being caught between two worlds, were essentially assimilated as unskilled and inexpensive laborers willing to work for white employers. The outing program partially achieved the goal of assimilation, but Indians did not achieve equal standing with whites. Instead, the outing program assimilated Indians by becoming common laborers for whites.