Alberta’s students

The students in Alberta’s lecture on captivity and ledger book drawings are named for significant figures in American history, each of which have had some major impact on Native Americans after colonization.

“Henry Dawes was sound asleep at the back of the room, his head wrapped up in his arms.”  (King, 19).

henry-dawes-002-thHenry Dawes was a U.S. Senator and Representative who sponsored The Dawes Act, which determined the distribution of land to Native Americans in Oklahoma.  The Act divided the land into three different packages: 40 acres for general living, 80 for raising cattle, and 160 for farming.  The land amounts were unsuitable for economic viability, and designed to be fragmented among heirs.  A very interesting analysis of the language of the bill, and its use as a form of control over Native Americans can be found here, written by David Bartecchi.

“Hannah Duston and John Collier had moved their desks together again, and were virtually in each other’s laps.” (King, 19)

johncollierJohn Collier was an activist who opposed the Dawes Act.  He believed that Native culture should not be lost in the midst of the expanding dominant white culture, and vocally expounded the idea that indigenous survival was intrinsically linked with the retention of their lands.  His efforts led to a study of the indigenous condition in the United States, the findings of which were published as The Problem of Indian Administration, also called the Meriam Report.  (

hannah_duston_by_stearnsHannah Emerston Duston lived in an English settlement called Haverhill during King William’s War.  At the time, the French were inciting Native raids on the settlements, and during such a raid, Duston, her infant daughter, and a nurse were taken captive.  Her child was killed, and after a long march, the two women were held on an island.  There, they met another captive, 14-year-old Samuel Leonardson.  One night, Duston and the boy stole tomahawks and killed ten of the indigenous people holding them; nine were killed by Duston.  The group then stole a canoe and made their escape, but Duston turned back to scalp the corpses so that she would have proof of her exploits.  After they returned to Haverhill, they went before the General Court in Boston and Duston was awarded £25 and each of her companions received half of that sum (Encyclopædia Britannica).

“Mary Rowlandson and Elaine Goodale were bent over, their heads locked together.” (King, 19)

maryrowlandsonMary Rowlandson was taken captive by an indigenous raid party and held for three months.  She was treated poorly, but her skills in sewing and knitting earned her better treatment than most others.  After being ransomed back to her husband for £20, she wrote an account of her captivity called The Soveraignty & Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed; Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. The book was reprinted in 30 editions over the years, and selections from it have been included in many anthologies of American writing (Encyclopædia Britannica).

elainegoodale1Elaine Goodale Eastman was a novelist, poet, journalist, editor and activist; but most importantly to indigenous culture, she was a schoolteacher.  In the nineteenth century, she fought for Native rights, opposing boarding schools based on her belief that the children should not be removed from their families.  She opened a day school on a Sioux reservation, hoping that it would serve as a model for indigenous education.  Goodale believed that Native Americans must assimilate into the dominant culture, or risk annihilation.  She lived with the Sioux for a time, and later met a Santee Sioux named Ohiyesa Charles Eastman, who had been educated at Dartmouth and recieved a medical degree from Boston University.  Ruth Anne Alexander, Professor Emertius of English, said of her: “Elaine really loved the work and she liked the country, liked the people very much. But she never lost the notion that they should be changed to white, that they should be reformed, even though there was this contradiction in her own enthusiasm for it.”  (PBS: Schoolhouse Pioneers).

“Helen Mooney was sitting in the front row, writing down every word Alberta uttered.”  (King, 19)

mcclungHelen Mooney was a Canadian reformer; in 1890, she became a teacher and went to board with the family of Rev. James and Alice McClung and became more commonly known as Nellie McClung (TimeLinks).  She was an important figure in the suffrage movement in Canada, and also worked for social reform in rural life, the plight of immigrants, conditions in cities and factories, the movements for prohibition and women’s suffrage, World War I, the Depression and World War II.  She was a member of ‘The Famous Five,’ who petitioned to have the word ‘person’ in section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867 interpreted to include women in the definition.  The decision allowed women eligibility to be appointed to the Senate of Canada (Archives Canada).


One response to “Alberta’s students

  • doctorsara

    You need one more paragraph summarizing why these famous persons would be placed as students in a university setting and what their respective positions in the class mean (e.g. Dawes is at the back of the class; Mooney write every word down….). I think you could have noted the famous paintings of captivity you used here.

    Still, I think the list you have provided here is very helpful to anyone who visits your blog! I am sure that you have had many hits.

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