Lesson Plan

Indian/Native American Boarding Schools: Their History, Harm and Impact

Carlisle Indian Industrial School Pupils

Pupils at Carlisle Indian school, Pennsylvania (c. 1890). Established in 1879 by Richard Pratt, the school attempted to assimilate Indian children into the white culture of the U.S. through education and financial support. Among its students were four of Comanche chief Quanah Parker's children and those of others involved in the Texas Indian Wars.

Related Content

GRADE LEVEL: High School

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, Language

SEL STANDARDS*: Self Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making

What Impact Did the Indian Boarding Schools Have on Individuals and the Native American Community?

In 2021, an Indigenous community in Canada found evidence of a mass grave that contained the remains of 215 children on the grounds of a former Indian boarding school.

In the aftermath of and inspired by this discovery in Canada, Deb Haaland, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and first Indigenous Cabinet Secretary in the U.S., announced the “Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.” The initiative’s purpose is to investigate the loss of human life and lasting consequences of the Federal Indian boarding school system in the U.S. The first part of the report was issued in May 2022. It revealed that between 1819 and 1969, the U.S. operated or supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states (or then-territories), including 21 schools in Alaska and 7 schools in Hawaii.

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn more about Indian boarding schools, reflect on personal narratives about the experience and examine recommendations contained in the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will understand the history, purpose and impact of Indian boarding schools.
  • Students will explore personal narratives of people who attended the Indian boarding schools. 
  • Students will analyze the official report about the boarding schools and subsequent recommendations.
  • Students will reflect upon the differences, limitations and opportunities presented by both personal narratives and data/statistics.

Indian/Native American Boarding Schools: Their History, Harm and Impact

* Based on CASEL's SEL Framework