Selected Resources on Quakers and Indigenous Boarding Schools

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition lays out a clear call to the U.S. government and to churches to learn and acknowledge the truth about Indian boarding schools. Research and surveys are beginning to document the stories, the impact of historic trauma, and historical summaries.

Remarks of Senator Murkowski, before introducing a resolution marking September 30, 2021 as a Day of Remembrance of the children who died in boarding schools.

Paula Palmer’s article “Quaker Indian Boarding Schools, Facing Our History and Ourselves,Friends Journal, October 1, 2016 and a video presentation of the same article.

Toward Right Relations with Native Peoples, a project of Friends Peace Teams.

As They Were Led: Quakerly Steps and Missteps Toward Native Justice 1795 to 1940, by Martha Claire Catlin, 2021. Available through Pendle Hill. Focuses on Baltimore Yearly Meeting and its joint work with New York, Genessee, and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings, 1795 to 1940.

How Quakers became involved in the “Peace Policy”

(Summarized from Martha Catlin’s book, above): Prior to 1869, many of the schools on reservation lands were managed through “Indian agents” – government employees or contractors who received payments that were due to the tribes under treaties to assure their health, education, and welfare. Fraud was common; much of the money never reached the tribes.

Meanwhile, Quakers in the Northeast (New York, Philadelphia, Genessee, and Baltimore Yearly Meetings) had developed a long-standing relationship with the Seneca and other Haudenosaunee (Iriquois) tribes, through many decades of struggle to prevent the tribes’ removal from their homelands. This close relationship, and others from an earlier time, meant that Quakers in the region were familiar with the fraudulent practices of some government representatives and private landholders, and the devastating consequences for tribes that were removed from their homelands.

In the late 1860s, these Quaker elders and leaders responded by presenting an alternative plan – placing what they called “men of good character” in charge of the “Indian agencies.” Benjamin Hallowell of Sandy Spring Meeting, a former clerk of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and clerk of BYM’s Indian Affairs Committee, led the Joint Committee’s delegation that met with President Grant to support the “Peace Policy.”

In the weeks following the meeting, the President invited Hicksite Quakers to take over six agencies and Orthodox Quakers ten, and both Quaker bodies accepted the invitations. In all, 73 agencies were parceled out to the oversight of various religious denominations. The agencies then founded and operated schools, and managed the payments (in the form of food, health care and other sustenance) that were due to tribes under various treaties.

While the “Peace Policy” may have mitigated the problem of fraud, it launched a deeply problematic approach to education — by forced assimilation.