Researching items for “This Day in History” blogs, March 3 stands out as a particularly bad day for legislation that undermines Indian treaty rights, autonomy, and culture. Here are five things that happened on this day in history.
March 3, 1819: Congress passes the Civilization Fund Act, the forerunner to the boarding school movement. The Act’s goal was to “stimulate the civilization process.” The website USDakotaWar.org provides the following summary:
In the late eighteenth century, the U.S. government desired to acculturate and assimilate American Indians (as opposed to instituting reservations), and promoted the practice of [educating] Indian children in the ways of white people. To aid this, the Civilization Fund Act of 1819 provided funding to societies (mostly religious) who worked on educating Indians, often at schools. Schools were founded by missionaries next to Indian settlements (and later reservations). As time went on schools were built with boarding facilities, to accommodate students who lived too far to attend on a daily basis.