This thesis examines the assimilation tactics used upon Native Americans by the United States government through the implantation of boarding schools. I primarily focused on the experiences of the Navajo Nation. The field site at the center of my research is the Carlisle Indian Industrial School located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. To contextualize my data, I utilized Roldolfo Stavenhagen’s (1991) theory on ethnic conflict and ethnocide, Milton Gordon’s (1964) discussion on Anglo-Conformity, Robert E. Park’s (1914) discourse on racial assimilation, and the practice of blood quantum described by Gregory Campbell (2008). I used archival materials and photographs of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School to collect my data. I analyzed this data by comparing the visual assimilation tactics to those described in the literature. These materials were provided by the Cumberland County Historical Society in Carlisle, PA. Through my research, I identified five main assimilation tactics used in boarding schools: removing children from their families, changing the students’ physical appearance through uniforms and haircuts, replacing the students’ tribal names with Western names, a curriculum that focuses on domestic and vocational training, and forbidding students from speaking their tribal languages. These assimilation tactics resulted in the cultural erasure of Native Americans’ identity. The students’ rich indigenous history and culture was forcibly erased in favor of a new American identity that was imposed upon them in boarding schools. The boarding school system therefore caused irreparable damage to Native American communities.


Navarro-Farr, Olivia


Sociology and Anthropology


Race and Ethnicity | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Native Americans, Boarding Schools, Archival Research, Visual Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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