Voices from Haskell
Indian Students between Two Worlds, 1884-1928
Haskell Institute of Lawrence, Kansas, first opened its doors in 1884 to twenty-two Ponca and Ottawa children, sent there to be taught Anglo-Protestant cultural values. For a century and a quarter since that time, this famous boarding school institution has challenged and touched the lives of tens of thousands of Indian students and their families representing a diverse array of tribal heritages. Voices from Haskell chronicles the formative years of this unique institution through the vivid memories and words of the students who attended.
Drawing on children's own accounts in letters, diaries, and other first-hand sources, Myriam Vučković reveals what Haskell’s students really thought about the boarding school experience. By examining the cultural encounters and contests that occurred there, she portrays indigenous youth struggling to retain a sense of dignity and Indian identity—and refusing to become passive victims of assimilation.
“An important addition to the literature on the history of American Indian education. . . . Should appeal to scholars and graduate students as well as general readers with an interest in Native American history.”
—Reviews in American History
“One of the strong points of the book is Vučkovićs comprehensive approach to providing insight into students’ lives, unveiling unbiased stories, letters, and testimonies about everyday issues.”
—Winds of ChangeSee all reviews...
“An important contribution to American Indian history, colonial studies, the history of education, and the history of the Progressive Era. . . . A thoughtful, important book.”
—Journal of American Ethnic History
“An important contribution to readers’ understanding of how Native American students understood and acted on the choices they faced as they navigated ‘White’ and ‘Indian’ worlds at the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. . . . Adds to the understanding of the complexity and contradictions within an important Native American boarding school at the turn of the twentieth century. . . . This richly detailed work with certainly be useful for comparative research or in a course on Native Americans or Native American education.”
“A welcome addition to the scholarly efforts chronicling the influence and importance of the American Indian boarding schools that emerged in the late nineteenth century to ‘civilize’ and evangelize generations of Indian children....A nuanced and thoroughly researched story of an institution that elicits contradictory emotions. Essential reading for those interested in Indian education and provides a good model for other institutional histories of Indian boarding schools.”
—Western Historical Quarterly
“A poignant account of native children’s boarding-school experiences.”
—Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“A major study . . . [with] rich detail. Vučković draws wonderfully well on Indian evidence: letters and other texts by students, reminiscences by ex-students, and contemporaneous correspondence by kin. Opinions of educators are not ignored either. The result is an evenhanded account of the school, its students and staff, weaknesses and strengths, during the nineteenth-and early twentieth-century assimilationist educational campaign. . . .Vučković conveys in very human terms how Indian people suffered from, exploited, and in myriad ways benefited from Haskell.”
—Great Plains Quarterly
“Vučković mines the extensive Haskell Indian Nations University collections in the National Archives to complement the emerging scholarly perspective on Indian boarding schools. the Haskell pictured is a multifaceted institution that reflected the evolution of American Indian policy and changing approaches in American education.”
“A thorough study of the largest federal boarding school for Native Americans, Haskell Institute, from its inception in 1884 through the 1920s. With this case study, Vučković adds to a rich field of Native Ameriacn boarding school scholarship aimed at reclaiming and highlighting the voices of the students at the center of a multi-million-dollar government effort to dictate the lives of Indian children. . . . Vučković makes good on her pledge to offer a glimpse into the daily lives of students at Haskell Institute through their letters and oral interviews, and her careful mining of over five hundred boxes of archival material is apparent. A section of twenty-five photographs—including images of students playing football, studying blacksmithing techniques, and learning Victorian etiquette—adds an enriching visual element to Voices from Haskell and is a treat for readers wanting to see for themselves some students who navigated their way through boarding school with dexterity and dignity.”
“A stunning examination of the educational experience of native children in one of the Bureau of Indian Affairss major off-reservation schools. In this deeply researched and thoughtful account—one that makes the fullest possible use of Indian voices—the complexity of the Indian boarding school story emerges full blown.”
—David Adams, author of Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience
“Provides important glimpses into life at the school and offers a nuanced and informed assessment of the schools history and legacy. Vučković has a sharp eye for the best material and she tells a good story.”
—Clyde Ellis, author of To Change Them Forever: Indian Education at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1893–1920See fewer reviews...
Vučković focuses on issues that directly affected the students, such as curriculum, health, gender differences, and extracurricular activities. She doesn’t flinch from the harsh realities of daily life: poor diet, overcrowding, inadequate medical care, and students forced to work to maintain school facilities and often subjected to harsh punishments. In response to this hostile environment, students developed a subculture of accommodation and resistance—sometimes using sign language as a way around the "English only" rule—that also helped break down barriers between tribes. Many found a positive experience in the education they received and discovered new sources of pride, such as the Native American Church, Haskell’s renowned football team, and its equally accomplished school band.
Haskell is the only former government boarding school to evolve into a four-year university and still boasts a unique intertribal character, providing a culturally diverse learning environment for more than 1,000 students from 150 tribes every year. The first in-depth study of the school from its founding through the first quarter of the twentieth century, Voices from Haskell is a frank look at its history, a tribute to its accomplishments, and a major contribution to studies of the Indian boarding school experience.