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Creation Date

Fall 2023


“Kill the Indian, Save the Man” by Julie Schrock

My mother wept on the day I left

I looked back she faded into the distance

my eyes blurred by tears or the wind

the teachers told me this was a good thing

I was too young to not believe them

they gave me a new name

bathed me in kerosene

were they trying to wash out their red in me?

hey cut off my long hair

a dark circle formed around the chair

when I look in the glass I don't see myself

I cannot speak my own language here

I must use the words of the white man

someone shouts at me in English but I don't understand

the loudness does not make me understand

it is cold here at night

there's no fire to get worn by

the other children cry and I think of my mother

did she weep because she knew? when I get back I'll surely tell her

they make a stack bricks for their building

cold cracks my hands and thumbs them red

but at least I can't feel the sharp edges

my legs don't want to keep me standing

but if one of us stops we won't get fed

when we aren't outside

marching or hauling heavy pieces of tile

we watch films where the enemies are people who look like me

what am I supposed to think

an apple was on my bed one night

and the other children looked at me with sad eyes

the teachers came in and took my hand

I didn't understand that what they were taking

was my youth

but at least it was warm in that room

I lie in bed in a room filled with children

coughing and crying

there's an ache in the air when one goes silent

I wonder if my mother would know what became of me

when they lay me on the ground with the others in rows

“kill the Indian and save the man”

I know enough now to understand what that meant

but how much of me do they have to kill?

what if I die before the Indian is dead

“Kill the Indian save the man” was the quote from a speech by R.H. Pratt who believed that taking away Native Americans’ culture was the way to assimilate them into white society.

This is written for the thousands of Native American children who were forced to attend the Indian boarding schools where they were physically and sexually abused, beaten, and had their identities stripped away from them.

Many of these children died from sicknesses such as influenza and tuberculosis, and their families did not learn of their deaths until after they were buried.