Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Sunday Post (Research Update)

meerajay's picture

More recently in my research, I have focused on the systems that place Native Americans in prison and have been comparing them to the systems that placed them in the Carlisle Boarding schools from the mid nineteenth to the twentieth century. I have especially been examining the narratives of assimilation around the Carlisle Boarding schools, and the trauma that comes from this forced assimilation. Many parents supported their children being sent to the boarding schools for three reasons: 1) It would keep them safe and 2) They saw the (free) school as reparations from the US government for taking away their land and 3) They believed that assimilation was the key in succeeding in American society, and wanted their children to learn English. This idea of giving up your children to institutional control and allowing-even wanting-them to assimilate into white Western society for their safety is deeply tied into how people of color raise their children today. As much as many value holding onto cultural values, there is an emphasis that in order to succeed in this country, you must learn the value of individualism.

The children in the boarding schools found solace in certain aspects of the culture that they desperately held onto, such as music and certain religious practices, which they participated in in secret. Meanwhile, there has been a recent movement in the prisons to hold onto cultural values, as well - they have recently released newsletters to communicate between different prisons, and Indian organizations go into prisons to teach the incarcerated Indians about their own religion. 

I have been thinking a little further on how to present this information. I want to do some sort of powerpoint or poster that will draw lines between the two moments in history in a compelling way, but I also want to add on an interactive component. I want participants to answer a question about how assimilation has affected their lives/how they see the world. I'm still trying to figure out the exact question, but my understanding is that everyone, even if you do not necessarily identify with a marginalized group, must change themselves to fit into American society. I want people to be able to relate their experiences to this topic, though obviously realize their differences with this group...

I could definitely use the class time to organize my thoughts and get some kind of outline going, and maybe even do a little more research. I also want to spend some time collaborating with ttong because we're both focusing on the incarceration of one particular group-I'm interested in figuring how to use infographics the way she discussed in her post. They seem like a great way to present information.