Anishinaabe Empowerment Within the Boarding School Experience
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It is estimated that by 1900 over 20,000 Native American children had attended government run boarding schools and that by 1925 that number had tripled. The boarding schools were a traumatic experience for many children who attended these schools, and they experienced abuse and neglect at the hands of their administrators. It is important to note, however, that the boarding school experience was not stagnant. It evolved over the years and, as generations of graduates entered the real world, it was apparent that federal policy would have to change. One issue that federal agents soon discovered, was that Native American tribes were different in the customs and traditions that they observed. Federal policies that might work for one tribe might not work for another. Therefore, we see different experiences within these boarding schools occurring regionally. For the Anishinaabe tribes in and around the Great Lakes region, these students found ways to empower themselves and renew their ability to operate within an ever-changing society, a society that was reluctant to allow indigenous people to participate. It was through the boarding school experience that many Anishinaabe found ways to strengthen their tribal identity despite government efforts to strip them of their culture and traditions. Furthermore, their instruction they received at these institutions would provide them with the necessary skill set to participate in a growing industrialized economy.