The cultural assimilation of Native Americans was an assimilation effort by the United States to transform Native American culture to European–American culture between the years of 1790–1920.

 Americanization policies were based on the idea that when indigenous people learned United States (American) customs and values, they would be able to merge tribal traditions with American culture and join the majority of the society.

Once the new students arrived at the boarding schools, their lives altered drastically. They were usually given new haircuts, uniforms of European-American style clothes, and even new English names, sometimes based on their own, other times assigned at random. They could no longer speak their own languages, even with each other.

While the concerted effort to assimilate Native Americans into American culture was abandoned officially, integration of Native American tribes and individuals continues to the present day. Often Native Americans are perceived as having been assimilated.

However, some Native Americans feel a particular sense of being from another society or do not belong in a primarily "occidental" European majority society, despite efforts to socially integrate them.

Woxie Haury (Cheyenne), is pictured in her finest cultural attire (left), and her western style wedding dress (right). Collection: Estelle Reel

Tom Torlino, Navajo, before and after. Photograph from the Richard Henry Pratt Papers, Yale University. Circa 1882.

Undated before and after photos of residential school student Thomas Moore at the Regina Indian Industrial School. Library and Archives Canada, 1897

A group of young Chiricahua Apache upon their arrival at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania on Nov. 4, 1886. Bottom: A group of young Chiricahua Apaches pose for photo four months after arriving at the the Carlisle school. (Photo: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library/Yale University/Wikimedia) 

Three young Lakota boys pictured (left) wearing their tribal clothing upon their arrival at Carlisle, and (right) a short time later wearing their school military-style uniforms, ca. 1900. Photos courtesy the Smithsonian National Anthropological Archives. 

Chiracahua Apaches as they arrived at Carlisle from Fort Marion, Florida, November 4, 1886.
Chiracahua Apaches four months after their arrival at Carlisle, March 1887.

White Buffalo was at Carlisle from 1881 to 1884. He had prematurely gray hair -- he is 18 here, in 1881.

Four Pueblo children from Zuni, N.M., c. 1880.

Responses to "Before and After Photos Show The Cultural Transformation of Some Native Americans"

  1. They all looked happier and more comfortable in their native dress! And more likely forced to have their hair cut, and work as slaves for the "school"! Tell it like it was...don't try to make it humane!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Their faces seem to be so solemn and their eyes so sad after they were transformed. Their spirits must have been stolen away from them by the white people and their rules.

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