These books were tremendously useful when writing about Katherine Weldon’s experience as a missionary teacher. Education For Extinction is full of anecdotes and is not really about the extinction of Indians but of that way of life we associate with Indians. Anyone who has ever taught or studied education must realize that the system is set up to indoctrinate students to the culture–all students. Books about children voluntarily sent to boarding school are always popular because most people at some point in their lives have fantasized about getting away from their parents and having adventures. Although there is much sadness at Indians leaving their families’ ways behind, the kids in these books are like all kids. They give the schools their best shot and toughen up, vie for leadership, embracing their circumstances or pine away for home. Bittersweet stories intermingle with just plain bitter and fair enough–the speed of change was definitely catastrophic to the tribes.
While we moderns are aghast at the idea of “killing the Indian and saving the man,” it’s difficult to judge the only friends the Indians had. It’s not the fashion nowadays to categorize people as more or less civilized, but back then people rightly saw that if the Indian didn’t assimilate and quickly they would be relegated to the margins of society at best. Progressive Victorians believed they should uplift humanity–through art, education, assimilation, etc. On some level in their well meaning elitist way they thought that all people were the same and could be taught to “fit in.” We also must remember that many Indians assimilated voluntarily. I have Indian blood through the marriage of an Indian woman to a Euro-American man. I have a full blood friend who still sports the braids, but loves making huge amounts of money working for Citibank. He doesn’t pine for his native ways. Complexity of history yet again.