Book Title: Colonized through Art: American Indian Schools and Art Education, 1889-1915
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Author: Marinella Lentis
Colonized through Art explores how the federal government used art education for American Indian children as an instrument for the “colonization of consciousness,” hoping to instill the values and ideals of Western society while simultaneously maintaining a political, social, economic, and racial hierarchy.
Focusing on the Albuquerque Indian School in New Mexico, the Sherman Institute in Riverside, California, and the world’s fairs and local community exhibitions, Marinella Lentis examines how the U.S. government’s solution to the “Indian problem” at the end of the nineteenth century emphasized education and assimilation. Educational theories at the time viewed art as the foundation of morality and as a way to promote virtues and personal improvement. These theories made the subject of art a natural tool for policy makers and educators to use in achieving their assimilationist goals of turning student “savages” into civilized men and women. Despite such educational regimes for students, however, indigenous ideas about art oftentimes emerged “from below,” particularly from well-known art teachers such as Arizona Swayney and Angel DeCora.
Colonized through Art explores how American Indian schools taught children to abandon their cultural heritage and produce artificially “native” crafts that were exhibited at local and international fairs. The purchase of these crafts by the general public turned students’ work into commodities and schools into factories.