August 28, 1890
THERE has been a great deal said, in and out of Congress, upon the question of a national system of education. There is much still being said, and there is also much that is proposed to be done. Senator Blair, and many other senators, worked diligently to secure the passage of an act by which the United States Government should assume a considerable part in the control of the public schools in all the States. Then, again, Mr. Blair proposes, and large organizations of people support, a resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States, so that thereby the national Government shall be empowered to assume complete and total charge of the education of all the children in the United States. Then, again, Senator Edmunds proposes a bill for the establishment of a national university, for the higher education of people in the United States.
In view of all these things it is proper to inquire what facilities and what qualifications the national Government has for educating the people of the United States, whether partially as proposed in the Blair bill, or totally as in the Blair amendment, or in a university course as proposed by the Edmunds bill? And happily, there is a means of answering to some extent, this interesting question.
In the discussion of the Indian Appropriation bill, which we have mentioned in THE SENTINEL, of the past two weeks, some important items are given which throw light upon this question. There are, it appears, somewhere about thirty or forty thousand Indian children in the United States. These have been adopted by the United States Government. They are not only considered, but are called, wards of the Government. The Government has assumed the responsibility of their education; and how has it discharged this responsibility? Why, it is found that so far is it from being able to educate these few Indians, itself, that it has found it necessary to let out the work by contract to about fifteen different churches; and in the debate in the Senate it was claimed that this was necessary, and the best thing the Government could do in discharging its responsibility in educating the Indians. Now if the United States Government finds itself unequal to the task of educating thirty or forty thousand Indian children, how will it be able to educate all the children of the sixty-five millions of people in the United States?
More than this, it was openly and soberly argued on the floor of the Senate, that the Government could not properly educate these Indian children without the aid of the churches. It was claimed by these senators that religion was necessary to the education of these children, and it was proper for the Government to unite with the churches in giving to the Indians such an education as only the churches can give. And this is clearly the view of the United States Senate, as is proved by the fact, that the appropriations of the past year are renewed to all the churches, with the addition of four new schools, with thousands of dollars each, to the Roman Catholic Church. This, therefore, being the view of the United States Senate in regard to the education of Indians, if any one of these educational measures proposed by Senators Blair and Edmunds, and supported by thousands upon thousands of the people in the United States—if any one of these measures should be adopted, how would it be possible to keep the national Government separate from the churches in carrying these educational enterprises into effect? 
It is of interest and profit further to inquire, what kind of an education it is that these Indians get, from the expenditure of so much public money through the churches? Children, whether Indian or white, are most forcibly and permanently taught by example. What examples have been set, in some things, by some of these churches, and in one thing by all of them?
Senator Dawes spoke of one denomination, unfortunately he did not give the name of it, which in last year’s appropriations took pay for sixty Indian students, when they had but forty—a clear case of downright swindling. Are the Indians, which the United States Government paid this church for teaching, expected to follow the example of the church which taught them? And if so, would it not be better if those children were not taught at all? Is it necessary that the United States Government shall give to a church organization, thousands of dollars a year to set before the Indians and the Nation at large such an example of thievery?
Again, there was an appropriation to the Roman Catholic Church, for the teaching of the St. Boniface School of Mission Indians in Southern California; and the result of one hundred and twenty-five years of Roman Catholic teaching of these Indians, is thus stated by Senator Dawes:—
For a hundred and twenty-five years the Mission Indians have been under the education and influence of the Jesuits of the Catholic Church. They are to-day as incapable, though industrious and of good habits, of self support, as citizens of the United States, as babes. They are more than ever reliant upon those from whom they receive their instruction. They go in their temporal matters as they do in their spiritual, where they are advised to go by their superiors. They plant where they tell them to plant, and they sow where they tell them to sow; and when the Mexican Government secularized all that southern mission band, and took away the priests, those poor Indians, with as good personal habits as any white men in the country, were like a flock of sheep without a shepherd, and have been appealing to this Government for a protection, which, if they had been self-reliant citizens, they could have had in and with and of themselves under the law.
And although the, result of one hundred and twenty-five years teaching by the Catholic Church has been to make these Indians as incapable of self-support as are babies, and that instead of this teaching causing them to be more self-reliant, it was only to cause them to be more dependent upon their instructors, even to depending upon them to tell them where to plant and where to sow, and to depend as much upon them to know what to do, as though they were children that had never been taught anything; yet to the Roman Catholic Church, the present fiscal year, there was appropriated not much, if any, less than four hundred thousand dollars of Government money to pay that church for the teaching of Indian children! Would it be possible to make a worse appropriation of the public funds than to give this money to the Roman Catholic Church for its service in teaching Indians to be grown-up babies, the more incapable the older they grow?
Again, that Bureau of Catholic Missions, in the city of Washington in 1889, informed the Government that it desired to put up necessary buildings for the establishment of an industrial or boarding school, in the Black Feet Reservation in Montana, and asked that the Government might allow them the use of one hundred and sixty acres of land, on the reservation, for buildings and grounds. The Secretary of the Interior, on May 6, 1889, granted this request. The Catholic Church went ahead and put up the buildings, and then it demanded that the Government should grant public money for the support of the school, whereas at first they only asked the use of the grounds on which to build it. And they justified their demand for money by the Jesuitical argument, that when the Government granted authority to establish the school upon the reservation, “the implied, if not expressed, understanding was that the Government would contribute toward the support of the Indian children that might attend it.” And upon this argument a demand was made for money, for the support and tuition of one hundred Indian children—512,500. This is but an example of the character of the Catholic Church everywhere, and any other church that begins encroachments upon the authority or treasury of the State is not far behind it. Such is the Bureau that Senator Dawes advertises as deserving of “the highest commendation.” And such are the men whom he takes “great pleasure” in commending to the country as “men worthy of confidence.” Now, is it intended by the United States Government that these Indian children shall be taught such things as are clearly set forth in these examples of the Roman Catholic Church, and that other church that was not named? It must be so, or assuredly the appropriations would not be renewed and the system would not be continued. But as that is counted by the Senate as the best thing that can be done by the Government in the education of the Indians, then we submit to every candid mind in the United States, Would it not be better for the Government to keep the public money, and let the Indians alone, than to spend more than half a million of dollars a year to teach the Indians swindling and trickery, by the ex-ample of these churches?
In addition to all this there is the example of all these fifteen denominations together, of disregarding the fundamental principles of American institutions, and deliberately violating the spirit of the United States Constitution, in taking the money of the State to support the Church. If the Indians learn from this example to disregard the Constitution, and the fundamental principles of the United States Government in other things, as these churches and the Government are doing in this, then are the Indians benefited by the teaching which they derive from such example? Take this whole mixture of Church-and-State teaching of the Indians, with the dishonesty, the trickery, and the unconstitutionality that pervades it all, and how much are the Indians really benefited by such an education?
Again, we say, if such is the result of a governmental attempt to teach a few Indian children, what would be the result of an effort by the Government to teach the children of all the people?
In closing, we submit to our readers the following problem for solution: If the attempt of the United States Government to educate thirty or forty thousand Indian children, creates such a union of Church and State as is considered by senators to be impossible of divorcement, how strong a union of Church and State would be formed, in an attempt of the United States Government to educate fifteen or twenty million white children?
A. T. J.