First Apache Children Taken from their Parents (Oct & Nov 1886)

During October and November 1886, the United States government began transferring Apache POW children from Fort Marion to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, directed by Captain Richard Henry Pratt. By tearing children away from their families, the government intended to create “Good Indians” and destroy the Chiricahua Apache tribe.

“A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one…. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.

“It is a great mistake to think that the Indian is born an inevitable savage. He is born a blank, like all the rest of us. Left in the surroundings of savagery, he grows to possess a savage language, superstition, and life.…  Transfer the savage-born infant to the surroundings of civilization, and he will grow to possess a civilized language and habit….

“The school at Carlisle is an attempt on the part of the government to do this. Carlisle has always planted treason to the tribe and loyalty to the nation at large…. It has preached…in favor of individualizing them.…  Carlisle fills young Indians with the spirit of loyalty to the stars and stripes, and then moves them out into our communities to show by their conduct and ability that the Indian is no different from the white.…

“When we cease to teach the Indian that he is less than a man; when we recognize fully that he is capable in all respects as we are, and that he only needs the opportunities and privileges which we possess to enable him to assert his humanity and manhood; when we act consistently towards him in accordance with that recognition; when we cease to fetter him to conditions which keep him in bondage, surrounded by retrogressive influences; when we allow him the freedom of association and the developing influences of social contact—then the Indian will quickly demonstrate that he can be truly civilized, and he himself will solve the question of what to do with the Indian.”  (Official Report of the Nineteenth Annual Conference of Charities and Correction (1892), 46–59. Reprinted in Richard H. Pratt, “The Advantages of Mingling Indians with Whites,” Americanizing the American Indians: Writings by the “Friends of the Indian” 1880–190. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973:260–271.)

“They lined us all up in front of Captain Pratt, who went down the line choosing forty-nine boys and girls to return with him to Carlisle. He also selected thirteen young men including me. The other twelve were married and some of them had children, but it was explained that families could accompany the married students. Captain Pratt seized my hand and held it up to show that I volunteered. I only scowled; I didn’t want to go at all.”  (Jason Betzinez, Chiricahua Apache POW, In I Rode with Geronimo.)

“Captain Pratt chose his students according to height. My father … had to go. Another boy, standing beside my father, by working his toes and feet back and forth in the soft sand, was soon two inches shorter and did not have to go.”  (Mildred Imach Cleghorn, former President of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. Quoted in Skinner 1987:160.)

“Sam Haozous escaped from being sent to Carlisle School when his mother hid him under a barrel until Captain Pratt departed with the Apache students.”  (Ruey Darrow, former President of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. Quoted in Skinner 1987:161.)

Removing children was yet another violation of the agreement that the United States had made with the Chiricahuas.

“…(W)hen the Indians surrendered they were promised by the Government officers that they should not be separated from their children…. A breach of faith in this respect – a separation – is what they constantly dread. Even a present of clothing to their … children excites their mistrust and makes them very restless, because it looks to them like preparing them for a journey, a separation from their parents.”  (Lieutenant Loomis L. Langdon, Commander, Fort Marion and Fort Pickens, Recommendations to Headquarters, Division of the Atlantic, August 23, 1886, “Education of the Apaches in Florida,” U. S. Senate Exec. Doc. 73 (49-2), pp. 5-7.)


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