Short Hair-In keeping with advancement

I have to admit that I sometimes wondered if stories of the white’s attempts to wipe out the Indian culture were a bit exaggerated.

This is one area where I can openly admit I wish I was right–because the proof below that I am wrong also reveals a more recent cultural genocide that is hard to comprehend…

“Dept. of the Interior OFFICE OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, Washington January 13, 1902 The Superintendent, Greenville School, CaIifornia, Sir;

This office desires to call to your attention to a few customs among the Indians which, it is believed, should be modified or discontinue. The wearing of long hair, by the male population of your agency is not in keeping with the advancement they are making, or will soon be expected to make, in civilization. The wearing of short hair will be a great advance and will certainly hasten their progress toward civilization. The returned male student far too frequently goes back to the reservation and falls into the old custom of letting his hair grow long.

He also paints profusely and adopts all the old habits and customs which the education in our Industrial schools has tried to eradicate. The fault does not lie so much with the schools as with the conditions found on the reservation. Those conditions are very often due to the policy of the Government toward the Indian and are often perpetuated by the superintendent’s not caring to take the initiative in fastening any new policy on his administration of the affairs of the agency. On many of the reservations the Indians of both sexes paint, claiming that it keeps their skin warm in winter and cool in summer; but instead, the paint melts when the Indian perspires and runs down into the eyes. The use of this paint leads to many disease of the eyes among those Indians who paint. Persons who have given considerable thought and investigation to the subject are satisfied that this custom causes the majority of the cases of blindness among the Indians of the United States.

You are therefore directed, to induce your male Indians to cut their hair and both sexes to stop painting. With some of the Indians this will be an easy matter; with others it will require considerable tact and perseverance on the part of yourself and your employes to successfully carry out these instructions. With your Indian employes and those Indians who draw rations and supplies it should be an easy matter as a non-compliance with the order may be made a reason for discharge or for withholding rations and supplies. Many may be induced to comply with the order voluntarily, especially the returned student. The returned students who do not comply voluntarily should be dealt with summarily. Employment, supplies, etc., should be withdrawn until they do comply and if they become obstreperous about the matter a short confinement in the guard-house at hard labor, with shorn locks, should furnish a cure. Certainly all the younger men should wear short hair, and it is believed that by tact, perseverance, firmness, and withdrawal of supplies the Superintendent can induce all to comply with this order.

The wearing of citizen’s clothing, instead of the Indian costume and blanket, should be encouraged. Indian dances and so-called Indian feasts should be prohibited. In many cases these dances and feasts are simply subterfuge to cover degrading acts and to disguise immoral purposes, you are directed to use your best efforts in the suppression of these evils. Very respectfully, WL (W)


7 Responses to Short Hair-In keeping with advancement

  1. Fred Mangels says:

    I always wondered why so many pictures of local indians showed them with short hair.

  2. olmanriver says:

    She’s back! Hooray! Glad you still had time for us readers Lynette.
    For a longer read about cultural genocide and the Carlisle school, here is the sad story link .

  3. spyrock says:

    i went through the same kind of things back in the 60’s at a catholic university. we were required to take rotc, get haircuts, wear uniforms and march around with m1s. i used to get my haircuts on haight street. two years later, 1967 they dropped the rotc requirement so i grew my hair a bit longer. after that, every time i went home for a visit or to a family gathering i was subjected to ridicule and abuse for things i did not participate in or even think about. one man in particuliar was very abusive on the pretense of being so patriotic yet he only went so far as all of these people were afraid of my mother who was born at the indian reservation in covelo. the survivors are all addicted to the fox channel and rush limpbough so not much has changed over the years. the point i’m making is that not much has changed since that time and i’m happy to learn that the indian school was established in carlisle more that 50 years after my ancestors had moved from there during and prior to the revolutionary war.

  4. spyrock says:

    i recently read an article about the use of indian scouts in ww2 and on the us border with mexico. it seems that long hair helps them with their intuition tracking people and animals. extensive tests revealed that when these same people had their hair cut they lost their seemingly psychic abilities.

  5. […] The artist’s great aunt Molly Lowry is the child in the painting. She was a student at the Greenville Indian School in California, at the time she ran away from the school she was 9 years old. She ran away after a […]

  6. Carl A. Carlson says:

    I recently published an ebook journal of James White, a gold rush miner who, while staying in Shasta City near Redding, had this to say about the treatment of Native Americans:

    Sunday June 2d. (1850)

    Last night a man was shot by arrows by the Indians in the night in his tent on the outskirts of the town. They have committed several such crimes before & everyone has been on the lookout for them. Cattle & mules they had shot and stolen many times.

    We had news from Cottonwood of 15 men begin driven off by the Indians & 5 horses stolen, the party being poorly armed. This news gave me fears of our party. The inhabitants of this place have been in constant alarm of the Indians.

    I do not think the poor Indians are to blame. Many of them have been shot & driven from there homes by the miserable ignorance & ? by ? of whites. I mean Oregonians & Western men, men who I have heard boast of killing them & shooting harmless squaws & burning their camps, but these men are to be pitted being brought up in ignorance. Many of them can not read nor write. But after all they are worse than the savages.

    Carl A. Carlson

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