Save the Indian, Save the (Wo)man: The Boarding School Poetry of Elsie Fuller, Maude Cooke, and Agnes Hatch
Dr. Jesus Montaño
From the years during the Civil War until the mid-1930s, one of the United States’ main objectives was to assimilate as many Native Americans into civilized society as possible. One way the American government set out to accomplish this was through the passing of the Dawes Allotment Act in 1887, which broke apart tribal lands into individual plots. The act forced Native Americans to learn farming, a culturally acceptable occupation, and sell their surplus crops to the government for widespread distribution. Another method of assimilating the Native Americans was sending their children to boarding schools, where white teachers instructed them in the ways of civilized life. Elsie Fuller, Maude Cooke, and Agnes Hatch were three young Native American women who attended boarding schools during the assimilation years and wrote about their experiences. This project analyzes their poems, namely “A New Citizen,” which praises the Dawes Act, and “Our Cottage,” which subtly defies assimilation. An analysis of these poems has never before been undertaken. Thus, this project endeavors to fill a significant gap, providing a glimpse into the lives of three women striving to come to terms with what it means to be Native American in a land that is no longer their own
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