Thursday, September 4, 2008

A woman before her time, Elaine Goodale Eastman

American woman in 1889, don’t have the right to vote, yet Elaine Goodale Eastman is appointed as Supervisor of Education in the two Dakotas. She is given a budget of thirty thousand dollars a year to manage and build a day school system for Indian child. She travels independently through a territory known to most Americans as the Wild West. She’s smart, curious and brave in a time when women are perceived as second class citizens. But, her most important attribute is the strength of her conviction to follow her calling as a teacher, writer, and compassionate servant to the disenfranchised Indian Nation of the Northern Plains. She believes passionately that education is a key factor if the next generations of Indians are to assimilate into American society.

When she arrives in Standing Rock, North Dakota in 1890; the last stop on her trip to survey new school locations, she’s devastated by the state of the Indian people.‘

"Lean and wiry in health, with glowing skins and a look of mettle, many now displayed gaunt forms, lackluster faces, and sad, deep-sunken eyes.”(p. 137)
Most Americans blame the Indians for the poor conditions that exist on Indian Reservations. They stereotype the Native American Indian's as lazy and unwilling to work, just waiting for their next government handout. After living with the Indians, learning their language and culture, Eastman knows this is not true. Also, working as a government administrator, she understands both side of this sad story. In the follow quote she explains her point of view.

“Yet all alike were victims of the natural calamity of the drought and of the broken promises of our government. It might well be said that we wronged the Indians most, not when we destroyed their wild herds or drove them from their vast ranges, but when we delayed too long the recompense of an equal share in the more advanced culture that inevitably displaced their own.” (p. 138)

Elaine Goodale Eastman ends her story without tell us what happened to the school program. Did it survive after the massacre at Wounded Knee?

1 comment:

A. Mattson said...

A great post about a great woman, Elaine Goodale Eastman. Yes, her school survived. The Wounded Knee massacre devastated Big Foot's band but it did not change directly affect the rest of the reservation population. The reservation was an occupied armed camp but eventually the tension subsided and the soldiers withdrew.