Around 1900 the oldest continuously-inhabited town in the United States area fragmented, when Hopi people of Oraibi, Arizona, split into so-called “Friendlies” and “Hostiles.” The causes of this conflict, reported in American media at the time, related mostly to differences within Oraibi society. The responses of “Hostiles” to American government imposition of schools were also crucial. Long noted for their peaceful ways, Hopi antagonists agreed not to use physical violence. Yet by 1905 the conflict had become so bitter that Francis Leupp, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, head of the Office of Indian Affairs/Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) within the Department of the Interior, actually visited Oraibi. According to his account, members of both groups treated him with disdain! [1]

Through an interpreter the commissioner delivered “a protracted colloquy” to a leader of the “Hostiles,” to show him “the folly of longer resisting the inroads of civilization.” Leupp pointed out “how much his people really owed to that very government which he took such pains to decry and deride.” The Hopis were ringed by American and Mexican adventurers, tax-gatherers, by state and territorial authorities armed with compulsory schooling laws and jail sentences for recalcitrant parents. The BIA, on the other hand, had established a small, local day school, close to the children’s homes, and threw all sorts of further protections around the people. “I fairly put the question to him,” concluded the frustrated commissioner. What would happen to the Oraibis if this powerful friend of theirs should become disgusted with their contemptuous and inimical demonstrations, close out its interests in the school and agency, turn its back on them, and leave them to their fate? This “colloquoy” might strike a twenty-first century reader as unctuous, self-righteous, self-serving, imperialist…cant! That Native Americans from any part of the United States and its territories should thank the federal government rather than decry its expansionist actions – the idea was beyond ludicrous. It was obscene in a deeply immoral sense.



I came upon the exchange towards the end of a long-term research project. American Indians, the Irish, and Government Schooling (2007) compares and contrasts the United States government campaign to Americanize the Indians (c.1820s-1920s) with a contemporaneous campaign of the British government to Anglicize the Irish. Both national authorities used elementary schooling to erode local cultures and assimilate supposedly deficient peoples into the dominant society. [2]

Embarking on such research endeavors, the historian can never fully escape location. I grew up in a strongly nationalist Irish family and educational environment during the 1950s and 1960s, deeply resenting Norman/English/British conquests (“800 years of oppression”) and the on-going partition of my country after the majority of the population gained independence in 1922. My father early introduced me to the American Western, with its howling, scalping, torturing, savages. It was also he who first suggested to me that Indians were victims of aggression, of land-grabbing, and even of massacres by “civilized” invaders, and were people worthy of respect. I suppose that from an early age I projected some of my Irish nationalist feelings onto those exotic victims of many imperialisms – Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, British, and later American.

I began university in the era of the counterculture (the late 1960s), when anti-imperialist discourses reigned. [3] Reared to assume the goodness of donating money to Roman Catholic missionary efforts on behalf of “the little black babies,” I had by then come to see uninvited missionary effort as cultural imperialism. In 1970 I began teaching history in Finland, another small nation perennially beset by big neighbors. Simultaneously I plunged into study of Native American histories. My anti-imperialist sympathies received further reinforcement from cultural anthropology (my Ph.D. minor subject in the United States) with its primary values of cultural relativism and respect for non-Western peoples.

Beginning my academic career, an almost reflexive anti-imperialism thus vied with more recently-acquired ideals of scholarly dispassion and a conviction of the complexity of all historical phenomena. In a number of books and articles I critically analyzed the complicity of ethnocentric Christian missionaries and BIA educators in American expansion. Simultaneously, however, I pointed to the racial egalitarianism of many such “Friends of the Indian,” their goals of church membership and citizenship for Native Americans. Responding to New Social History admonitions to demonstrate the active roles of native peoples, I emphasized how Indians, and Irish peoples too, reacted in ambivalent, manipulative, and sometimes highly positive ways to the school, despite its use as a weapon of cultural imperialism. Across three decades I thus strove to get beyond crude anti-imperialism and to achieve complex understandings of cultural confrontations. Nevertheless, I generally adopted an unsympathetic stance toward imperial/colonial expansions and the assimilationist schooling of “deficient” peoples, be they Irish, Native Americans, or others. Could educational authorities not have seen the good, the beautiful, the worthwhile in tribal cultures, and in Celtic, Irish-speaking society? This is the sub-text, if not often the actual text of my works. [4]



And yet…. Throughout my recent Indian-Irish comparative project, a sense of discomfort intruded, one powerfully encapsulated in the question of the Indian commissioner to the leader of the “Hostile” Hopis: what if? What if, apart from dispossessing them of their lands, the United States government had completely turned its back on Indian peoples? Specifically relating to education: what if Indian treaties had never contained clauses stipulating the establishment of schools among the tribes? What if the federal government had never cooperated with missionary societies, or itself built local day schools? Had never established large, ambitious off-reservation boarding schools such as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania?

Would things have been better or worse for Indian peoples then and now? It is difficult to define “better.” A missionary might claim that Indians converted to Christianity were immeasurably “better” than before. The term is used here in a more secular sense: would more Indians would have physically survived, for example; have adapted to the new world growing up around them; have lived in a greater physical health and comfort; and, significantly, have maintained more of their lands, languages, cultures and identities?

In comparative context, had the British government ignored Irish educational needs after 1800, would the people have been better off then and later? Parliament might have continued its earlier policy of working with Protestant missionary organizations, further exacerbating denominational tensions. Or it might have cut loose from any educational policy for Ireland. Deprived of denominational education by the discriminatory eighteenth-century Penal Laws, many Catholic children attended the famous but irregular “hedge schools.” Would these have filled the gap left by the absence of a state-supported elementary education system – the “national schools”? As the Penal laws were repealed, would the new Catholic parish schools, and teaching orders of priests, brothers, and nuns? Would schools of other denominations, such as the Presbyterians and Anglicans, especially? If not, would Irish boys and girls have been better prepared for life in the new Ireland – or out of it, in the Empire or the United States – without the national schools? Would Irish national identity have blossomed as it did? And, finally, would the absence of government schooling have had similar or different effects in Ireland and America?

These, then, are the issues “I’d rather not contemplate.” Rather not, because doing so threatens to undermine many of my Irish nationalist assumptions, and my claimed sympathies for Native American cultures and peoples. The enterprise is worthy, nevertheless: little Irish-Indian comparative educational history has been attempted; nor, to my knowledge, have historians counterfactually compared developments in the two nations.



There has, however, been a spate of academic counterfactualizing over the last decade or so. [5] In his 1997 introduction to a collection of carefully-researched and rigorously-argued “what if?” essays, Niall Ferguson rejects many forms of historical determinism, pointing to the importance of contingency in history. He concludes that valid counterfactual exercises can be more than pointless “parlour games,” as British historian E. H. Carr famously claimed. “The counterfactual scenarios we therefore need to construct,” writes Ferguson, “are simulations based on calculations about the relative probability of plausible outcomes in a chaotic world (hence ‘virtual history’).” [6]

Lamenting the hostility to counterfactualizing among historians—unlike scholars and scientists in other fields—the editors and contributors to Unmaking the West (2006) take a similar stand on the need for rigorous use of evidence, and argue against the dangers of “hindsight bias.” Further, the editors suggest a number of “quality control questions,” one of which particularly applies to my study: can we identify ways that counterfactualizing “either undermines or reinforces the particular interpretations of history one held at the outset” (emphasis in original). [7] Similarly, Steven Weber claims that, among other functions, counterfactual approaches “can also be used to open minds, to raise tough questions about what we think we know, and to suggest unfamiliar or uncomfortable arguments that we had best consider.” [8] Even more recently Simon T. Kaye argues that “counterfactualism” may help us avoid “three categories of common ahistorical errors. . . assumptions of indispensibilitycausality, and inevitability.” He too believes that an explicit counterfactual approach “begs a historian to consider the extent of his or her own sureness” (all emphases in original). “It is my assertion,” he writes, that such thought experiments “constitute an extremely useful ‘toolkit’ in the field of historical analysis.” [9] By setting up plausible scenarios that test my own nationalist and “tribal” prejudices, the present counterfactual study does discomfort me, and certainly undermines some of my own earlier sureness.



A short essay comparing educational developments in two nations cannot, as a more focused counterfactual study might, speculate in detail about possibly different outcomes over a century for literally millions of children in thousands of local communities. It can but suggest broad counterfactual similarities and differences—including one dramatic difference—between possible Indian and Irish outcomes. Further studies could focus in on many such details.

Before moving to consider what might have happened, we need to present what, according to my and other historians’ understanding of the sources, most likely did happen. Scholars who have examined assimilationist education in both Native America and Ireland broadly agree on the nature and result of these campaigns. [10]

Indian peoples of course possessed their own, highly institutionalized forms of education for boys and girls. [11] White colonists were generally ignorant of such practices, and from the early sixteenth century Catholic and Protestant missionaries began the schooling of tribal children. Imperial and colonial governments saw the usefulness of schooling for the “civilization,” Christianization, and pacification of the tribes. [12]

To achieve an acceptably humane solution to its “Indian problem,” the new United States began to put its prestige, power, and increasing amounts of its money behind far more ambitious efforts. In 1794 the nation negotiated its first Indian treaty specifically mentioning education, and many more treaties would contain similar offers and even demands for compulsory schooling of tribal children. [13] In 1819 Congress provided a specific “civilization fund” of $10,000 for the “uplift” and education of Indians, and the assimilationist campaign continued to employ legislation, treaty-making (until 1871), and other expedients to achieve its goals. Initially the United States Government depended upon missionary societies, but after establishing its boarding school at Carlisle in 1879, the BIA came to dominate the educational effort. Government and missionary school curricula strove to erase tribal cultures, languages, and spiritual concepts. The goal was to Americanize Indian children and transform them into citizens of the republic, “cultural brokers,” who would carry the new Christian Civilization back to their own peoples. Education into American life, wrote commissioner William A. Jones 1903, would “exterminate the Indian but develop a man.” This approach persisted until the introduction of more culturally-sensitive policies during the Indian New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration in the 1930s. The assimilationist campaign did not totally end then, but the decade of the 1920s marks a logical cut-off point for the American side of the present study. [14]

Throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century Indian elementary schooling expanded impressively. By the 1820s missionaries working under BIA oversight and benefiting from tribal treaty payments, had established 32 schools among the Indians, enrolling perhaps 900 boys and girls. A century later in 1930 enrolments at “mission and other private schools” had grown to 6,000, but BIA schools enrolled over 34,000 boys and girls. Statistics suggest, writes historian Margaret Connell Szasz, that education was one of the most successful programs of the Bureau. An explosion had occurred in attendance at another kind of institution. Aided by federal government financial support to many white communities in which Indians did not pay taxes, over 38,000 tribal children then attended state public schools. [15] Despite the far greater “cultural distance” between Indians and their teachers than between Irish pupils and their teachers, the United States had achieved a near-universal level of Indian elementary schooling, one similar to that reached by the Irish national schools during their existence. [16]



When the Norman kings of what would later become England first established a claim to Ireland in the twelfth century, the country was broken into many competing sub-kingdoms and over-kingdoms. Even by early modern times no native national state had developed and so the new centralizing English Tudor state (1485-1603) achieved a military conquest of the island. During the sixteenth century Reformation the English became predominantly Protestant, but most Irish people remained Roman Catholic. There followed major Protestant plantations and population movements, especially of Scottish Presbyterians to Ulster, and the dispossession of most Catholics of their lands. The eighteenth-century Penal Laws sought the subjugation of Catholics (and dissenter Protestants) to a minority Anglican—State Church—Protestant ascendancy, which in turn remained firmly under the domination of Westminster. By the 1780s the colonial élite in Ireland, as in the American colonies, sought greater freedom within the British Empire while similarly ignoring the claims of “native” peoples. By 1783 American colonists had broken completely with the British Empire. After complex and bloody rebellions in 1798, however, Britain decided to solve its “Irish problem” by fully absorbing the country into the United Kingdom through the (1800) Act of Union.

Like colonial regimes in the Americas, English governments early realized the assimilatory potential of education. From the time of Henry VIII in the 1530s they established schools in Ireland to prevent English settlers from going native, and to Anglicize and convert the Irish to Protestantism; later British governments gave some support to independent missionary societies. Yet by the early decades of the nineteenth century a more systematic approach was needed to integrate a predominantly Catholic people as subjects into the Union. After a number of commissions reported during the 1820s, Parliament in 1831 agreed to fund an Irish elementary school system. Run by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland (CNEI), the new national schools would be open to all boys and girls. Whereas traditional Indian spiritual values – “heathenism” – generally merited contempt from white educators, the home religion of Irish children would be carefully respected. This toleration of local religious sensibilities did not extend to other areas of Irish culture. Until late in the nineteenth century all instruction was through English, although initially a high percentage of pupils were monoglot Irish-speakers. Like that of the BIA, the CNEI curriculum also ignored most “native” cultural knowledge, and would have suited any English-speaking population. [17]

With the partition of the island into the Irish Free State (later Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland in the early 1920s, the National Board passed out of existence, making this decade an equally logical cut-off point for the Irish part of the present study.

The statistics for Irish national school expansion are also impressive. By around 1820, for a total population of seven million, there were close to six hundred thousand pupils attending 11,823 schools of all kinds. About 9,000 of these were in fact “paying schools,” the vast majority of them “hedge schools” still in existence ever after the end of the Penal Laws. About 400,000 children irregularly attended the latter. Another 150,000 attended various Protestant denominational schools (mostly Anglican, one third Presbyterian). About 33,000 attended Catholic day schools, with tens of thousands of other Catholics attending Protestant missionary schools. Various Catholic orders of clergy, brothers, and nuns were also beginning to educate Irish children, but only a few 1,000 attended all such institutions in the early nineteenth century. Despite these apparently impressive statistics, perhaps no more than two-fifths of Irish children then attended any kind of school, and not all of them did so regularly. Even if the National Board had not been established in 1831, however, a proportionately larger number of Irish than Indian children were then receiving some sort of schooling. [18]

By the early twentieth century, in a much less populous Ireland (about 4,000,000), decimated by the Great Famine (1845-48) and massive emigration, the National Board dominated the Irish schooling scene. There were then 8,674 national schools in Ireland, claiming an enrolment of over 700,000 pupils. In the words of historian John Coolahan, the CNEI school had become “a landmark institution in the life of the Irish countryside, so much so that by 1900 every parish and many townlands could boast of having their own national school.” [19] Thus by the 1920s elementary schooling was near-universal for both Irish and Indian peoples: convergence from very different beginnings. In each case, the role of the “alien” government was crucial.



So what if those governments had decided not to put money and effort into the mass education of “problem” peoples? Parliament only instituted mass elementary education for English children in 1870—indeed the Irish system probably served as a social laboratory for later English developments. [20] And in the American nation then, education was a state, rather than federal responsibility. Thus it is not implausible to speculate that majority populations in Britain and the United States would certainly have forgiven the authorities had they simply subjugated and then ignored these problem peoples.

Without BIA support, some Christian missionaries would still have gone to the Indians. Had treaties and legislation ignored education, however, less money would have been available to the missionary societies. [21] Cooperating with missionaries, acculturative elites among, for example, “The Five Civilized Tribes” (Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, and Seminoles) quickly realized the adaptive importance of modern education, and established impressive and multi-leveled school systems. [22] Had fewer missionaries entered their lands, without government funds, such hybrid Native-white school systems might still have developed, but hardly as impressively as they did. These Native peoples would thus have been far less prepared—especially in terms of English language competence—to defend their interests and evolving identities in the face of on-rushing white settlement.

Indeed, one of the most terrible of initial shocks for young Indian boys and girls attending many missionary and, especially, government schools, was the rigid insistence upon the English language for all teaching and communication. [23] Yet, gradually, some learned a little English, and some a lot. And some, such as Francis La Flesche (Omaha), Dr. Charles E. Eastman (Dakota) and Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin Simmons, a Nakota) went on to become spokesmen and women for their own and other Indian peoples , addressing white Americans in spoken, written, and published English, rather than through interpreters. [24]

Considering the near-universal school attendance of Indian children by 1930, it is highly likely that large numbers of younger men and women and increasing numbers of their adult kin understood and spoke some English. This development would weaken the positions of tribal languages. It would also give Indian people a new and vital adaptive weapon. Although the Cherokees lost their battle against removal to Oklahoma in the 1830s, they had come to realize the importance of English, both to allow communication with the dominant society and also to keep themselves informed of development outside the Cherokee Nation. [25] Further, English also gave a common language to those who traditionally spoke many mutually incomprehensible tribal languages, one through which to develop pan-Indian awareness and alliances. By the early twentieth century, activists and journalists were establishing periodicals such as the American Indian Magazine to proclaim adaptive forms of tribal and pan-Indian identity. [26]

Although highly critical of the BIA and missionary educational campaigns, the famous Meriam Report of 1928 noted how Indian literacy had markedly improved in the previous decades. [27] This literacy was not entirely in English. [28] Much of Native American literacy was in the language of the conqueror, however. As an adaptive mechanism for confronting an expanding, modern America, literacy has also been vital. For example, according to Jeffrey Anderson, by the early twentieth century among the Northern Arapahoe of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, “the ability to talk to whites and to manage literacy became a prerequisite for political leadership, as determined by traditional forms of decision-making within the tribe.” Such movements towards literacy in English have been strategic and personal, rather than implying full assimilation into the dominant society. [29] Above all, they have been adaptive, and helped these and other Indians adjust to modern life. In decades of research I have never come across an Indian who regretted learning English or acquiring literacy in that language. [30]

Along with missionary efforts, federal schooling produced most of this literacy in English. The “half and half” BIA and missionary curricula combined so-called literary studies with manual labor in and for the school. The literary “half” placed great emphasis on the “3 R’s” – along with a fourth, religion – in order to “uplift” their charges. At large boarding schools the curriculum often became highly demanding, featuring English, history, geography, mathematics, and other such subjects. It employed increasingly difficult graded readers, such as the famous McGuffey Readers, all of which demanded improving levels of literary in English. [31]

From today’s perspective—indeed from that of the early twentieth-century Progressive Education movement that emphasized pupil-centered and community-centered education—the rigid discipline of both day and boarding schools was especially blameworthy. Tribal children were forcibly washed, the boys’ long hair cut, all were dressed in “civilized clothes,” some in military-style uniforms, implying military-style obedience. Rote memorization of knowledge, drill, marching bands, physical punishments, occasional brutality—all demanded that pupils internalize the regimentation of the school, and by extension, of modern society. [32]

After classroom activities, boys worked in the carpenter’s shop, or on the farm, and girls learned to cook, knit, sew, and do other supposedly gender-appropriate jobs. Some detested this physical work and some enjoyed it, especially when paid small amounts of money. [33] Theoretically such duties would teach “savage” children the importance of the Protestant Work Ethic, and provide them with skills useful on the reservation or in white society (mostly at lower levels). In fact, student labor often became vital to school survival, and even contemporaneous white critics (such as those who wrote the 1928 Meriam Report) pointed to the gross exploitation of children involved. [34]

Yet again we might consider the adaptive value of such regimentation and of the “half-and-half” curriculum. As well as providing English literacy the schools imparted valuable lessons for survival in modern civilization: clock-watching, “the bell” (to divide the day into productive units), basic and sometimes advanced forms of arithmetic; and, most important, the earning and use of money. The small sums students received for physical labor often went directly into a school bank. Pupils thus learned even more of the capitalist ethic. This is not to argue for the inherent worth of rigid regimentation or of capitalism—merely to acknowledge the adaptive value of much of the curriculum in nineteenth-century America.

Ex-pupils noted how tribal leaders could become aware of such value. Geronimo has achieved fame as the last Indian hold-out, not vanquished militarily until 1886. Yet, according to Asa Daklugie, it was Geronimo who ordered him and other young Apaches to attend Carlisle. “Without this training in the ways of the White Eyes our people could never compete with them,” wrote Daklugie much later. “So it was necessary that those destined for leadership prepare themselves to cope with the enemy. I was to be trained to become [an Apache] leader”—at the BIA’s Carlisle Indian School! [35] Such elders, supposedly mired in tradition, would later be proved right in many tribes.

Indians also began to realize the importance of the American legal system. In their efforts to stave off removal in the 1830s the Cherokees not only exploited literacy and English; they developed, in the words of Sidney L. Harris, “a carefully planned legal strategy” of repeatedly bringing their case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Removal took place, yet a pattern was being established in this and other tribes. Hoxie specifically notes how the first generation of Indians educated at boarding schools used “their facility with English,” along with their “civilized” appearance and understanding of American institutions to enter tribal political life and circulate petitions attacking BIA policies. “Through such actions,” he writes, “the political leaders of a supposedly vanishing race began to define the legal limits of federal and state intrusion into their communities.” [36]

Further, by the early twentieth century large numbers of Indians gained salaried employment in the BIA as monitors, officers, teachers, and in other such roles; Ely S. Parker, a Seneca, actually served from 1869 to 1870 as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. [37] Although many Indian pupils sickened and died, the schools could also become, as Scott Riney notes, “welfare providers of last resort.” [38] Apart from jobs—and further adaptive training—they offered regular food and clothing for thousands of tribal children, decade after decade, during crisis times of inter-tribal warfare and clashes with white Americans, while the buffalo rushed to near-extinction.

Of course, as by 1930 over half of all school-age Indian children were actually attending state public schools, perhaps the Federal government effort was not so important? However, this dramatic increase in attendance partly occurred because, as we have seen, the BIA financially supported many such Indian children. Moreover, without the federal effort, the whole idea of modern schooling would have been far less visible to remote tribal peoples. If they had rarely seen or even heard of schools, or had never encountered recruiting teams from distant boarding schools (often including students dressed in military-style uniforms, yellow stripes on their arms and legs!), would Indian kin have been sending 38,000 of their children to white public schools in 1930? [39]

Thus, whatever the destructive effects of the BIA and missionary school upon Indian cultural values, tribal identity, kin cohesion, and even on the very health of tribal schoolchildren, things might have been worse without this educational institution. In area after area – language, literacy, work habits, the use of money, incipient knowledge of the legal system, even of physical well-being—the schools brought things that Indians needed, and increasingly knew they needed, to survive in modern American society.

Because Indian peoples had choices. Not until the 1890s did schooling become compulsory, and then only sporadically so. [40] While some Indian children were literally dragged to school by tribal police, others went voluntarily, or at the behest of their kinfolk. [41] By 1930 most Indians had got the school habit; they realized that, although their children still needed traditional knowledge and values, they needed the school too. Indeed, a concluding comparative section will make even stronger claims for the crucial contribution of government schooling to Indian survival. But first let us turn again to the Irish case.



How might the Irish have fared without the British-financed national school system run by the CNEI? The hedge schools were never anything more than a haphazard collection of educational expedients. [42] The self-consciously regimented national schools suffered continually from irregular attendance, for example, and inadequate facilities—all documented in the CNEI’s annual Report. It is highly unlikely that the hedge schools could have been better off in such respects, or come anywhere near to filling the gap, had the national schools not been built.

With its greater resources and small percentage of the total population (about one tenth), perhaps the (Anglican) Church of Ireland could have successfully educated its own. Nevertheless, after its disestablishment as the Irish state church in 1869, Anglican children more and more gravitated towards the national system, making up perhaps one tenth of the pupils by 1880. Presbyterians, living mostly in parts of Ulster, could probably have covered their own educational needs. Yet, significantly, once the national system had been reorganized to suit them, Presbyterians too joined. [43]

Emerging from sporadic persecution under the Penal Laws, the Roman Catholic Church first worked with hedge school masters, then organized its own parish school system. Significantly, this Church also co-operated with the national system, once it had been molded to Catholic needs. “The hierarchy was conscious,” write Judith Harford and Deirdre Raftery in a recent study, “of the fact that it could not afford to boycott the scheme since it was not in a position to finance its own system of primary education.” By the middle of the nineteenth century, then, the Catholic and major Protestant Churches had joined the system and all exploited it for their own ends. Without government support they would have struggled on, but with far smaller resources for educating the millions of mostly poor Irish children. [44]

As in the Indian case, much of the CNEI curriculum ignored local and national culture. This was perhaps less a problem for Anglicans and Presbyterians, generally English-speaking and loyal to the Union. Pupils from the predominantly Catholic, Irish-speaking, and rural society suffered more, as initially all learning was through English. Except in the area of religion, where the CNEI rigidly adhered to a policy of denominational neutrality, Irish children were often as baffled as Indians. [45]

National school pupils, nevertheless, and through them their communities, benefited massively from pragmatic British government largesse. Literacy levels had apparently been rising throughout the century, to something under 50% at 1850, and here the hedge schools, along with denominational and other schools, must take some credit. There were further impressive improvements by 1900. The CNEI claimed 85% literacy by then, and by 1910 almost all young adults could read and write. Surely the widely-attended national schools, with their carefully structured curricula, graded reading books, and inspectorial visits, could claim much of the credit for these improvements? [46]

As with Indian literacy, this Irish literacy was almost entirely in English. Much has been written in recent years about the death of vernaculars. In 1800 perhaps 3 ½ million Irish people, mostly in the northwest, west, and southwest of the country, spoke only Irish. By 1900 perhaps one tenth of this number, an ever-diminishing minority, used the vernacular. [47] British imperialism was of course crucial. Yet nineteenth-century observers, even CNEI inspectors sympathetic to Irish, along with later historians, see the mass of Irish people voluntarily deserting the old language, for the new and more widely-useful English: “language suicide,” rather than “language murder.” [48]

The process had begun well before 1831. By their millions of individual decisions—voluntarily sending children first to hedge schools and later to the new national schools, or by talking Irish to each other, but English to the children—Irish people themselves decided the fate of their language. [49] If their children migrated to Dublin or other Irish cities; if they sought work in Scotland or England or further afield in the British Empire; if, as millions did, they sailed for the United States to compete for jobs and political power with non-English speaking immigrants—what use was Irish? To millions of Irish people who found themselves working away from local, Irish-speaking areas, then, the English language conferred a massive adaptive advantage, just as it did for Indians in different circumstances. Drawing on a native aphorism, Tony Crowley notes how “the Irish loved their language, but they loved their children more.” [50]

As with the Indian case, only in the 1890s did elementary schooling become compulsory in Ireland, and the results there were equally sporadic. [51] The Irish people also had choices, then, and they overwhelmingly chose to send their children to schools that taught through the foreign language. Even in the absence of the national schools the vernacular would most likely have declined. Yet the CNEI can surely claim much of the credit—if that is the appropriate term—for the mass desertion of the Irish language by the Irish people. This was a tragedy; indeed, many see language loss as constituting loss of cultural and national identity. Yet, as Anderson writes of an Indian people: “Language is [only] one among a number of ways of being Arapaho.” [52] The predominantly Catholic and nationalist Irish people could also pragmatically switch languages while intensifying their ethnic identity and indeed nationalism; they would oppose British rule in Ireland mostly through the English language.

Language shift is thus a complex issue. It would be myopic, nevertheless, to deny the immediate and indeed long-term advantages that command of the English language has brought. Surely some of Ireland’s recent prosperity (at least to mid-2008) can be attributed to the fact that it is an English-speaking country.

The sides of national school life that now strike the historian as most oppressive—the regimentation, the rote learning, the schoolyard drill designed to teach loyalty and unquestioning obedience to authority—also had their adaptive value. If nineteenth-century rural Irish children did not face the onrush of alien settlers, many faced the demanding journey not just to foreign lands, but into modern, urban life. So the school also prepared them for the discipline of the factory or of domestic service, or of the teaching profession. In attempting to teach agricultural knowledge and practices, the CNEI also showed awareness of Ireland’s economic needs, horrifically evidenced by the suffering of the Great Famine years. Even when its commitment to such manual labor teaching diminished in the later nineteenth century, girls, especially, continued to learn such “feminine” skills as cooking and sewing as part of the regular curriculum. [53] Also, by teaching geography, and (later) history, by informing them about the world (often more about the distant world than about Ireland [54]), the schools were broadening the minds of Irish children, many of whom would soon have to live in that broader world.

As with Indians, the national schools also provided immediate concrete benefits. The brighter pupils might become monitors, and even earn a little money. William O’Malley, later a Member of Parliament for the Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster, remembered his youthful pride at receiving a few pounds sterling per year for monitorial duties. [55] Some would themselves become teachers within the system, occasionally principals or even inspectors, enjoying far greater sense of security than those (mostly) men who traveled the country to set up hedge schools. Girls may have been even greater beneficiaries of the national schools than boys. The daughters, and to a lesser extent sons, of those who emigrated to America sometimes entered the teaching profession there, gaining a measure of security and prestige as “servants of the poor.” [56]

Therefore, we can also make a strong case for the immediate and long-term importance of government schooling in Irish life. Despite, or perhaps because of their anglicizing goals, they achieved widespread acceptance by Irish people, and prepared generations for life in their own changing communities, for migration to English-speaking Irish areas, and for emigration all over the world. Ironically, they may even have helped prepare the road to the independence of most of the country from British rule. Would a less modernized, less literate, Irish-speaking people – thus less exposed to contemporaneous ideas of Enlightenment and Romantic nationalism – have been as likely to rise against Britain? Would such a population have succeeded in winning independence in 1922, as did a partly-Anglicized, predominantly literate, modernizing, yet ideologically nationalist people, heavily the products of the national schools? [57]



Both BIA/missionary and CNEI schooling campaign were nakedly assimilative. However, Indian and Irish peoples learned to adaptively manipulate the school. Perhaps ironically, both employed the new knowledge, especially literacy in the new language, towards defining powerful and on-going senses of self-identity. Note, for example the cultural and historical pride expressed in many contemporary Indian tribal/national web sites—mostly through the English language. Note, too, how such corporate expressions of Indian identity valorize the education of youth through all levels, from pre-school to university. [58] And although Irish remains the first official language of the Republic, and is enjoying something of a minor renaissance, Ireland is an overwhelmingly English-speaking nation. And much of Irish national pride is also expressed through English.

The regimentation, curricular offerings, the oppressive regimes that made the schools on both continents places of misery for countless boys and girls, also taught powerfully useful—if generally “proletarian”—adaptive skills. These facilitated the encounter with modern life, whether it be working in a factory or serving as a domestic for an American family; or teaching the children of their own or other communities.

Indian and Irish people were not just passive recipients of such learning. Indians, as the Hopi example suggests, could divide bitterly over schooling, particularly over having their children taken far away to distant, unhealthy boarding schools. Yet tribal and Irish adults were highly pragmatic. In the Indian case many realized that their own money, treaty annuities, helped support the schools. One Kiowa Apache told how a tribal leader instructed the U.S. agent not to distribute annuity money to those who refused to send their children to school. [59] Such people, in America and Ireland, must have been aware of official contempt for their ancient, sacred, but supposedly backward ways of life. Yet, whether on the Blasket islands off southwestern Ireland or in Oraibi, Arizona, many came to accept that their children needed modern education to face the future.



In one very significant way the effects of government schooling may have been decisively different. Perhaps a million Irish people died as a direct result of the Great Famine, from starvation and disease; a further million immediately emigrated, thus dramatically escalating a process that had begun much earlier, and would continue beyond the mid-twentieth century. [60] Yet at no time during the nineteenth century was the actual physical survival of the Irish people at stake. By 1900, apart from the 4 million on the island, millions more Irish-born and of Irish descent lived abroad. At no time was the phrase “The Vanishing Irish” a truism on peoples’ lips. Without the national schools Irish people at home and abroad would have been far less-well prepared for the future, but they would have survived as a people.

The case appears shockingly different for Indians. From 1800 to 1900 the population of the United States expanded from about 5 to 80 millions—a population explosion perhaps unique in human history. By 1930 it had grown to 100 million. During the same period the Indian population decreased from perhaps a million to about one third of a million, and Indians really did appear to be vanishing. [61]

How many would have survived if, as the BIA commissioner suggested to the Hopi, the federal government had turned its back on Indians, and left them wholly at the mercy of settlers, territorial, and state governments? If it had not put its money and Indian treaty money to work by building and funding schools, and employing thousands of teachers, including Indians? Would a “benign” or perhaps callous neglect have been better or worse in terms of Indian physical survival? [62]

My speculation is this: not only would the result have been worse for Indians; it would have been catastrophically worse. Had the government not acted as it did, “The Vanishing Indian” might have become a terrible reality; at the very least, far fewer Indians would have survived into the twentieth century. And when we consider how few actually survived until 1900, “far fewer” suggests very few indeed. [63]

By attempting to erase almost all tribal values, the United States government and its missionary allies committed “culturecide” against Native Americans. Nevertheless, their major goals for Indians were Christianity and citizenship of the United States. By providing the pragmatic Indian peoples with a degree of protection and with exploitable adaptive tools, the federal/missionary schooling campaign may have helped to prevent the genocide—the physical extermination—of Indian peoples in the United States.

Although the government’s educational role was vital in both Ireland and America, then, its significance was even greater in the latter case. The school may have been pivotal in helping Native American peoples in their struggle for actual physical survival as the ocean of settlement threatened their very existence. [64] This conclusion suggests the need for further counterfactual studies, focusing on the actual or possible effects of schooling/lack of schooling in areas such as India or Africa or Australia; or in Canada or Scotland, for example. The present unavoidably broad study also suggests the need for micro-studies following through in detail the effects of schooling/lack of schooling on individuals and small communities /groups in many of these areas.

This study thus reaches conclusions that I, still an Irish nationalist, [65] still deeply sympathetic to the struggles of indigenous peoples everywhere, would rather not contemplate. And this counterfactual interrogation certainly “undermines. . .the particular interpretations of history [I] held at the outset” (emphasis in original) of my project many decades ago. Despite their ethnocentric assimilationist policies and practices, the BIA and missionary schools, and the CNEI national schools, may have done more good than harm. “Bad an’ all” as the schools were, things might have been a lot worse for Irish people, and inexpressibly worse for Native Americans, without them.

I have also tried to follow through on the arguments made by Ferguson and other historians that, if grounded in credible use of sources, and not too implausible, counterfactual “what if” history has things to teach us. It has forced me to examine assimilationist education from the perspectives of colonialists and imperialists with whom I find it difficult to empathize. I still regard Francis Leupp’s “colloquay” to the Hostile leader in Oraibi as unctuous, self-righteous, self-serving, imperialist cant. But I have to concede that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs had a point.



Acknowledgement goes to Sirkka Coleman, Markus Coleman, Tiina Coleman, Aiden Coleman, Toni Kosonen, Patrick Long, Margaret Connell Szasz, Jane Weiss, and the referee for IJAS Online.

[1] This and next paragraph: Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs(hereafter ARCIA followed by year) (1906), House Documents, Vol. 15, 59 Congress, 2 session, serial 5118, 118-25. “Colloquy,” 119-20. The commissioner perceptively noted that the Hopis were manipulating white Americans. See also ARCIA, Reports of the Department of the Interior(Washington, 1907), 80-87; Peter M. Whiteley, Deliberate Acts: Changing Hopi Culture Through the Oraibi Split (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1988); Margaret D. Jacobs, “A Battle for the Children: American Indian Child Removal in Arizona in the Era of Assimilation,” Journal of Arizona History 1 (Spring 2004): 31-62: removal of Hopi children to distant boarding schools was a major issue in the dispute.

[2] Michael C. Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, and Government Schooling: A Comparative Study (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007). By “elementary schooling” I also mean primary schooling, for boys and girls from c.5 to 13 years – although both younger and older children sometimes attended BIA and Irish national schools.

[3] Many of my (mostly Irish) teachers in the department of history, University College Dublin, were critical of simplistic nationalist interpretations of Irish history.

[4] In 1973 Dr. Charles E. Rosenberg, my mentor at the University of Pennsylvania, directed me to the archives of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia. Initially aghast at having to study “imperialist” missionary activities, I quickly became fascinated by the subject. My doctoral dissertation and Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes Toward American Indians, 1837-1893(Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985), were the result; American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930(Jackson: University Press of Mississippi,1993).

[5] For example: Diarmaid Ferriter, What If?: Alternative Views of Twentieth-Century Ireland (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 2006); Philip E. Tetlock, Richard Ned Lebow, and Geoffrey Parker, eds., Unmaking the West: “What-If?” Scenarios that Rewrite World History(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006); Robert Cowley, ed., More What If?: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been(London: Pan, 2002); Niall Ferguson, ed., Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (London: Picador, 2003 [1997]); Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin, eds., Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological, and Psychological Perspectives (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). Many of the examples examined in this book are explicitly historical.

[6] Ferguson, Introduction to Virtual History, 1-90. Also Martin Bunzl, “Counterfactual History: A User’s Guide,” American Historical Review109:4 (June 2004): 245-58. Cf. Gary McCulloch, “Virtual History and the History of Education,” History of Education32:2 (2003): 145-56.

[7] Tetlock, et. al., Preface, Unmaking the West. Quotations: 9, 10.

[8] Steven Weber, “Counterfactuals Past and Present,” in Counterfactual Thought Experiments, eds. Tetlock and Belkin, 268.

[9] Simon T. Kaye, “Challenging Certainty: The Utility and History of Counterfactualism,”History and Theory 49 (February 2010): 38-57. Quotations; 38, 39, 40. He further adds: “…a historian should seek to contextualize his or her thought processes, and counterfactual thought-experiments are one strong way of doing this” (41). Just as I attempt in the present essay.

[10] For this literature, see Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, Bibliographical Note, 345-47 (Indian education), and 348-50 (Irish education). More recent studies cited in notes below.

[11] See, for example, Coleman, American Indian Children at School, Chap. 2; Szasz, Indian Education in the American Colonies, 1607-1783 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988), 7-27.

[12] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 23-25;Szasz, Indian Education in the American Colonies.

[13] Michael C. Coleman, “Treaties and American Indian Schools in the Age of Assimilation, 1794-1930,” in Treaties with American Indians: An Encyclopedia of Rights, Conflicts, and Sovereignity, ed. Donald L. Fixico (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2008), vol. I, 179-91.

[14] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 38-54. “Exterminate”: ARCIA (1903), H. Doc., no. 5, part 1, 58 Congress, 2nd session, serial 4645, 2-3.

[15] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 43-47; ARCIA, Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior (Washington, DC, 1930), 26-27. The commissioner noted: “The government is paying tuition for [Indian public school students] in 861 white communities, 23 more than last year. Hundreds of other communities admit Indian children without tuition”; Szasz, Education and the American Indian, 2.

[16] I thank Aiden Coleman for alerting me to the term “cultural distance”; and see John W. Berry, “Immigration, Acculturation, Adaptation,” Applied Psychology: An International Review46:1 (Jan. 1997): 23.

[17] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 27-37, 53-59.

[18] Second Report of the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry, H.C., 1826-27, vol. 12:2-24. For the two-fifths figure: Graham Balfour, The Educational Systems of Great Britain and Ireland, 2nd ed. (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1903), 79: “the extent of their attendance and the quality of their instruction may have amounted to anything or nothing.” A tiny number of these “schools” may have been of “intermediate” (secondary/high school) level. As late as 1874 there were only 574 such schools in Ireland, John Coolahan, Irish Education, 59-60; Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 36. For a recent account of the development of the national schools, Deirdre Raftery and Susan M. Parkes, Female Education in Ireland 1700-1900: Minerva or Madonna(Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2007), esp. Chap.2 (by Judith Harford and Deirdre Raftery).

[19] CNEI, Sixty-Seventh Report…For the Year 1900 (hereafter CNEI, Report, followed by year in parenthesis), esp. 13-25; Coolahan, Irish Education, 8. See also Balfour, Educational Systems, 106.

[20] John Coolahan, Irish Education: Its History and Structure(Dublin: Institute of Government Administration, 1980), 3. On the so-called Foster Education Act of 1870, see Andy Green, Education and State Formation: The Rise of Education Systems in England, France and the USA (Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, 1990), 302, and all chap. 6.

[21] According to Theodore Fischbacher, in the pre-Civil War decades, direct government aid accounted for less than 10 per cent of the money being spent to “civilize” Indians; missionary societies raised some of the rest, while treaty money provided the bulk of it, “A Study of the Role of the Federal Government in the Education of the American Indian,” (Ph.D. diss., Arizona State University, 1967), 65-67. The far more active federal government role after the Civil War required increasingly large “amounts appropriated for Indian school purposes”: $20,000 in 1877, up to $3 million in 1900! ARCIA (1900), House Document, No. 5, 56 Congress, 2 session, serial 4101, 4.

[22] On the education systems of the “Five Civilized tribes” and their 1906 take-over by the federal government, see Report of the Superintendent of Schools for the Indian Territory, ARCIA, Reports of the Department of the Interior (Washington, DC, 1907), 349-55.

[23] See, for example, Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 100-106; Clyde Ellis,To Change Them Forever: Indian Education at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School,1893-1920 (Norman; University of Oklahoma Press, 1996), 105-6.

[24] This is a major theme of Coleman, American Indians, the Irish. On Indian appropriation of English, oral and written: Tiya Miles, “ ‘Circular Reasoning’: Recentering Cherokee Women in the Antiremoval Campaigns,” American Quarterly61: 2 (June 2009), 221-43; Tracey Neal Leavelle, “’Bad Things’ and ‘Good Hearts’: Mediation, Meaning, and the Language of Illinois Christianity,” Church History73:2 (June 2007):363-94; Amelia Katanski, Learning to Write “Indian”: The Boarding School Experience and American Indian Literature (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005); Maureen Konkle, Writing Indian History: Native Intellectuals and the Politics of Historiography, 1827-1863 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Ruth Sprack, America’s Second Tongue: American Indian Education and the Ownership of English, 1860-1900 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,2002); Amy Goldburn, “Literary Practices at the Genoa Industrial School, “ Great Plains Quarterly 19 (Winter 1999): 35-52.

[25] Andrew Denson, Demanding the Cherokee Nation: Indian Autonomy and American Culture, 1830-1900(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), 24. Also, Miles, “Circular Reasoning,” esp. 234: “Cherokees employed the written word as their main weapon against American incursions…”

[26] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, esp. 212-14; John Reyner and Jeanne Eder, American Indian Education: A History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), 199-20; Katanski, Learning to Write “Indian,” 130. See also Lucy Maddox, Citizen Indians: Native American Intellectuals, Race, and Reform (Ithaca, NY; Cornell University Press, 2005).

[27] Institute for Government Research, The Problem of Indian Administration(The Meriam Report) (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1928), 357-58.

[28] Leavelle, “’Bad Things’ and ‘Good Hearts’”; Sprack, America’s Second Language, 49-52; Reyner and Eder, American Indian Education, 74-80; Coleman, Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes, 116-19.

[29] Jeffrey Anderson, “Ethnolinguistic Dimensions of Northern Arapaho Language Shift,” Anthropological Linguistics 40:1 (Spring 1998): 56. I thank Ray DeMallie for providing me with a copy of this article. For the broader context, see Edward E. Gordon and Elaine H. Gordon, Literacy in America: Historic Journey and Contemporary Solutions (Westport, CONN: Praeger, 2003), esp. chap. 9, “Literacy as Mission: American Indians.”

[30] Emphasizing the importance of English literacy to the spread of a syncretic and multi-tribal movement, Rani-Henrik Andersson, The Lakota Ghost Dance of 1890 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008), 28, 31, 292-3.

[31] See, for example, Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, chap. 5.

[32] Drawing heavily on ex-student reminiscences of such experiences, for example, Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, chap. 5; David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1929 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press,1995), chap. 4; K. Tsianina Lomawaima, They Called it Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,1994), chap. 2. On Progessive Education, see Reyhner and Eder, American Indian Education, 210-25; Szasz, Education and the American Indian, esp. chaps. 5, 6.

[33] Helen Sekaquaptewa, a Hopi, enjoyed both the sense of responsibility and the money when she took charge of the boarding school laundry one summer, Me and Mine: The Life Story of Helen Sekaquaptewa, as told to Louise Udall (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1969), 124, 138, 183. And 188, on Hopi work ethic.

[34] Institute for Government Research, The Problem of Indian Administration (The Meriam Report), chap.9, esp. 382-92; David H. Dejong, “’Unless They Are Kept Alive’: Federal Indian Schools and Student Health, 1878-1918,” American Indian Quarterly 31:2 (Spring 2007): 258, 272-5. Cf. Jean A. Keller, Empty Beds: Indian Student Health at Sherman Institute, 1902-22 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2002).

[35] Asa Daklugie et al, Indeh: An Apache Odyssesy. Ed. Eve Ball (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), 135-36. Also: Thomas Wildcat Alford, Civilization, and the Story of the Absentee Shawnees. As Told to Florence Drake (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1936), 73-74, 89-90.

[36] Sidney L. Harring, “Indian Law, Sovereignty, and State Law: Native Peoples and the Law,” in A Companion to American Indian History, eds. Philip J. Deloria and Neal Salisbury (Malden, MASS: Blcakwell, 2002), 450-51; Frederick E. Hoxie, “Exploring a Cultural Borderland: Native American Journeys of Discovery,” in American Nations Encounters in Indian Country, 1850 to the Present, eds. Hoxie, Peter C. Mancall and James H. Merrell (New York: Routledge, 2001), 280. Also Eve Ball: “At Carlisle they had learned that disputes and injustices could sometimes be made right by legal minds.” Finally in 1971, “after a long and bitter series of legal battles,” Apaches at Mescalero won a $25 million settlement from the government, Indeh, 290-91; also a central theme of Konkle, Writing American Nations.

[37] Wilbert H. Ahearn, “An Experiment Aborted: Returned Indian Students in the Indian School Service, 1881-1908,” Ethnohistory 44:2 (Spring 1997): 263-304. There was a drop in “Indianization” in the early twentieth century, but by 1940 about 60 percent of BIA personnel were Indians, Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior (Washington, DC.: Government Printing Office, 1941), 439.

[38] Riney, The Rapid City Indian Boarding School, 73. and chap. 4.

[39] George Webb, A Pima Remembers(1959; rpt. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1982), 85, on being impressed by military uniforms of recruiting students from Carlisle; he decided to attend the school.

[40] See Coleman, American Indian Children, 45.

[41] Ibid., chap. 4. See also Jacobs, “A Battle for the Children.”

[42] See, for example, Antonia McManus, The Irish Hedge School and its Books, 1695-1831 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002); J. R. R. Adams, “Swine-Tax and Eat-Him-All-Magee: The Hedge Schools and Popular Education in Ireland,” in Irish Popular Culture, 1650-1850, ed. James S. Donnelly, Jr., and Kerby A. Miller (Dublin: Irish Academic Press,1998), 97-117; J. Dowling, The Hedge Schools of Ireland(Cork: Mercier Press, 1968).

[43] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 54-59.

[44] Ibid., 59-60; Raftery and Parkes, Female Education in Ireland, 35-36. See also Deidre Raftery and Catherine Nowlan-Roebuck, “Convent Schools and National Education in Nineteenth-Century Ireland: Negotiating a Place within a Non-Denominational System,” History of Education 36:3 (May 2007): 353-65.

[45] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, esp. 96-100, on language difficulties. In the Irish sections of this book I have relied heavily on ex-pupil reminiscences, available through published autobiographies and through the words of folklore informants held in the UCD Delargy Centre for Irish Folklore and the National Folklore Collection, Univesity College Dublin.

[46] CNEI Report (1903), 2; David Fitzpatrick, “’A Share of the Honeycomb’: Education, Emigration, and Irishwomen,” in The Origins of Popular Literacy in Ireland, eds. Mary Daly and Richard Dickson (Dublin: TCD/UCD, 1990), 168. Cf. Balfour, Educational Systems, 110.

[47] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, esp. 72-75, 245-46. See also David Crystal, Language Death (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000), whose arguments I draw on; Tony Crowley, War of Words: The Politics of Language in Ireland, 1537-2004 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[48] See Anderson, “Ethnolinguistic Dimensions”: people may choose to speak the new language; some Arapaho parents, like their Irish counterparts, spoke English to children and the “old” language to each other. Also, Michael C. Coleman, “‘You Might All be Speaking Swedish Today’: Language Change in Nineteenth-Century Finland and Ireland,” Scandinavian Journal of History. (Electronic version, Dec. 2009. Forthcoming in paper).

[49] On the difficulties faced by Gaelic revivalists in, ironically, the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht areas, see Timothy G. McMahon, Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910(Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2008), 119-29. People there “wanted their children to learn English in order to overcome the ingrained social stigma that Irish-speakers were poor and backward” (122); they also needed the income their migrant and immigrant children might send home.

[50] The employment of Irish emigrants throughout the British Empire is a major theme of Kev in Kenny, ed., Ireland and the British Empire(Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004); Crowley, War of Words, 122. Also Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, esp. 70-75.

[51] On compulsory schooling in Ireland, see Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 60.

[52] Anderson, “Ethnolinguistic Dimensions,” 83; Coleman, “’You Might All be Speaking Swedish’.”

[53] Coleman, American Indians, the Irish, 130-133. In later decades of the nineteenth century, such subjects became mere book learning, at least for boys, ibid., 123-26, 131, 155.

[54] “In school after school,” wrote inspector Beatty near the end of the nineteenth century, “I find children who can show Borneo or Madagascar, and yet cannot point out Ireland or tell the name of the county they live in,” CNEI, Report (1889), Appendix, 173.

[55] William O’Malley, Glancing Back: 70 Years Experiences and Reminiscences of Press Man, Sportsman, and Member of Parliament (London: Wright and Brown, [1933?]), 150-53.

[56] Fitzpatrick, “Share of the Honeycomb,” 175: by late in the nineteenth century Irish girls and women “were slightly better educated and more migratory than men,” but this related to many factors, including the declining importance of women in the Irish labour market; Janet Nolan, Servants of the Poor: Teachers and Mobility in Ireland and Irish America (Norte Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004).

[57] In American Indians, the IrishI concluded from autobiographical accounts that few national school teachers risked their livelihood by preaching nationalism to the pupils; Irish nationalism thus mostly grew up outside of the schools, but heavily through the English learned in them. The same was true of BIA teachers – few, even if Indians themselves, bucked the assimilationist line, 175-80.

[58] Specific examples:  (Nov. 26, 2009). This site even quotes the words of the famous Nez Perce leader, Chief Joseph: “I wish all my children would learn more and more everyday, so they can mingle with the white people and do business with them as well as anybody else” (1904); 26, 2009). Generalization based on perusal of about 40 tribal/Indian Nation net pages: these and many more can be immediately located at Lisa Mitten), which alphabetically presents tribal net pages (Nov. 26, 2009).

[59] Jim Whitewolf, Jim Whitewolf: The Life of a Kiowa Apache Indian, ed. Charles S. Brant (New York: Dover, 1969), 83.

[60] Famine deaths and emigration: Cormac Ó Gráda, Black ’47 and Beyond: The Great Irish Famine in History, Economy, and Memory(Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 1999), chap. 3, esp.85, 105.

[61] Michael R. Haines, “The White Population of the United States, 1790-1920,” in A Population History of North America, ed. Haines and Richard H. Steckel (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 306 (non-white population included in chart on this page). Indian population c. 1800: Leroy Eid, “Indian Geographical Distribution, Habitat, and Demography,” in The Native North American Almanac: A Reference Work on Native North Americans in the United States and Canada, ed. Duane Champagne (Washington, DC: Gale, 1994), 206; ARCIA (1900), H. Doc., no. 5, 56th Congress, 2 session, serial 4101, 22-23. Commissioner Jones claimed that the Indian population, barring the “Five Civilized Tribes,” amounted to 187,312 in 1899. Adding in the omitted Indians would have given a figure of perhaps a quarter of a million – though this hardly included many of part-white descent or those who had left their tribal areas and were unknown to the government. For recent Indian population, see note 62 immediately below.

[62] In the 2000 census 4.3 million (1.5 per cent of the US population) reported Native American and Alaskan ancestry. This included 2.4 million who reported only Native American and Alaskan ancestry. Even if 1900 figures (note 61) undercounted, both 2000 figures demonstrate an impressive “native” population recovery. See: 31, 2007).

[63] Not all late-nineteenth-century American accepted the tragic stereotype of “The vanishing Indian,” see Stuart Banner, How the Indians Lost their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 262-63.

[64] Cf. Stan Hoig, White Man’s Paper Trail: Grand Councils and Treaty-Making on the Central Plains (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2006), on how Indians might have been worse off without the treaty system. I thank Dr. Francis Paul Prucha, S.J., for bringing Hoig’s book to my attention). A major theme of Banner, How the Indians Lost their Land, is how governments (especially British imperial and American), often attempted to come between settler/Westerner and Indians.

[65] In 2004, after living most of my adult life in Finland, I became a dual citizen of Finland and Ireland.