Kill the Indian, Save the Man
A survey of Indian Boarding Schools Operating from 1850-2017*
Vinyl, thermochromic ink, and charting tape.
This artwork is intended to be touched. This map appears in a censored state, with black ink obscuring the content. This special ink can be made transparent using the heat of touch. The viewer is encouraged to touch the artwork to reveal details obscured at first glance.
“A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”
- Capt. Richard H. Pratt
The phrase, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” spoken at the Official Report of the Nineteenth Annual Conference of Charities and Correction 1892, was coined by Capt. Richard H. Pratt, the founder of the first Indian Boarding School in Oregon state in 1850. It became the hallmark slogan for a federal campaign that was later recognized as a primary instrument of cultural genocide. And yet, I never once learned about this history in my official education- public or private. I learned of it through my family history, as an explanation of how our cultural practices were forbidden, and then became lost.
There were hundreds of US Indian Boarding Schools, many of whose names have vanished through academic neglect. Hundreds of thousands of native children were forcibly taken from their families over a span of 128 years, until the Indian Child Welfare Act 0f 1978 gave native families’ the custodial rights to protect their children. Prior to this law, native children could be rounded up by public or private agencies and forcibly relocated to boarding schools, seminaries, military facilities and labor camps to have their culture, language, and religion systematically stripped from them. Aside from ethnic cleansing, the schools were notoriously riddled with brutality, sexual assault, labor exploitation, neglect, and disease. It’s a chapter in our history that altered the shape of a people irrevocably and caused immense harm to individuals, families, and tribes.
And yet, this history has been largely expunged through silence and censorship. When you first encountered this piece, you might have wondered what the black bars represented. What was so widespread, and yet intentionally obscured from you? I invite you to participate in undoing this erasure. To use your personal body heat to expose, however briefly, the names of the schools that were formed in an attempt to erase indigenous culture.
*Schools marked with an asterisk are still in operation today.
The name Project Diana comes from a 1946 NASA mission that projected radio waves into space. These waves broke through the ionosphere, echoed off the moon and then returned to Earth.