February 14, 2017. Plains Warfare, Indian Reservations, and Boarding Schools

February 16, 2017. Ghost Dance to Wild West Shows


Above: UC Davis History Professor Louis Warren on The Ghost Dance

Above: Buffalo Bill Wild West Footage (Silent Film) 1908.

Above: Annie Oakley Original Silent Film; Documentary on Buffalo Bill Cody produced by The History Channel; Ghost Dance Silent Film


Select two images from the gallery above and one of the assigned readings. Analyze the photograph in-depth in relation to one of the readings. What are the photographs arguing? What elements of the photograph support your claim? What is your document arguing? How do these images signify a major turning point in Native American history in the West?




Dr. Rhae Lynn Barnes is a member of the Society of Fellows at USC and Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton (beginning 2018). She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University and B.A. at U.C. Berkeley. She is the co-founder of U.S. History Scene.
  • Paul Delio

    The two images I have chosen to analyze are the Tom Torlino images and the White Buffalo images. These four images depict two native americans who decided to attend a white school by the name of Carlisle. The reason I selected these images is because they accurately show the transition many native americans made when they went to school with the white people. In both pictures, the men are originally depicted in their traditional native american clothing. Then, after what Luther Standing Bear defined as the ‘civilizing’ process, the men are depicted in suits and have much cleaner hair. The photographs argue that the service the Americans were offering to the Native Americans was an easy transition and a successful one. What we can learn from Luther’s account on his experience at Carlisle is that this was not the case. In Luther’s account, we can infer that the transition from the traditional lifestyle to that of the white people was not an easy one. Luther goes in to great detail of how the natives perception of going east was a bad one. He says that they believed that only reason to go east was to die. Luther talks about how it was difficult to leave his family and embrace this new lifestyle. He informs the reader that the transition was not easy because of how rapid he had to leave his old life behind. His diet, his clothing, his language, and even his own name were all stripped from him early on. These images signify a major turning point of Native American history in the west because they depict the attempt by the white people to include Native Americans into society rather than wage war with them.

  • Linda Rose

    I have chosen to look at the before and after photos of Tom Torlino and the
    writings of Luther Standing Bear on his experience at Carlilse Indian School,
    The before picture of the young man who was named Tom Torlino is a
    captivating vision of strength and resolve. It is a young man displaying his
    cultural heritage. His hair long and styled in a way that brings to mind a wild
    horse running free, mane rising in the rushing current of air. His eyes are focused
    with the light reflecting sadness or determination in their dark pools. He
    wears hoop earrings and a string of crosses around his neck. His robe or
    blanket is also adorned with a cross. The shadowing on his face emphasizes his
    striking bone structure. He looks like a brave warrior, as if he might hold a
    prominent place in his society; as if he has already taken on the role of
    manhood. If this picture was taken by the school to compare to the after shot
    to argue the improvement after he became a student, I don’t see it.

    If Tom’s experience with the decision to go east was anything like Luther
    Standing Bear’s the look in Tom’s eyes could very well have been his resolve at
    choosing to be brave when heading toward what he believed was certain death. The distrust of whites was so pronounced that
    Standing Bear believed he was being taken to be killed. He wrote that the
    Lakota men were brave to the point of choosing to “die in the performance of
    some act of bravery than to die of old age.” In deciding to go with the white
    men to the East, Tom too may have been choosing to bravely face death rather than
    to disgrace his father by appearing cowardly.

    Tom’s arrival at the school was probably similar to Standing Bear’s portrayal.
    It was the start of a life so unlike what they were used to that it meant death
    to many of the young students. It can be assumed that after his photograph was
    taken everything that defined Tom Torlino as the young Sioux brave he had been
    was stripped away from him. His hair was cut, his clothing was changed, his
    jewelry removed. He was restricted from speaking his language and forced to
    speak only English. The food he was used to eating was no longer available and
    he had to get used to a strange diet. He would have felt confined and lonely.
    Tom Torlino’s after picture shows a young man in very restrictive clothing. His
    shirt is fastened up to his throat and his jewelry replaced by buttons and a
    stiff collar. Interesting to note that the light that shone out from his eyes
    in his before picture is extinguished and replaced by flat brown eyes.

    These photographs and Standing Bear’s writing show how the Indian schools
    and the forced departure of their way of life was the end of their longstanding
    culture. Their language was lost to them and their whole way of life exchanged
    for a despairing settlement onto the reservations.

  • Moises Cortes

    I chose to analyze the before and after Pueblo photographs (first two of bottom row). I found this comparison very attractive because it truly demonstrates the policy taken on Native Americans to change them. Having the before and after pictures side by side shows that there was no place for anything ‘indian’ to be a part of these children’s lives. I feel that, what these pictures are telling viewers, closely resembles what the document ‘Reconstructing Approaches to America’s Indian Problem.’ In this document the author gives information as to how the US government was dealing with the ‘native question.’ At one point 12 different Christian denominations joined to help civilize natives, but were not successful. Eventually, off-reservation schools were implemented and were effective in their mission to ‘kill the indian, save keep that man.’ For example, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School was a ‘model school’ to integrate and assimilate the native children into a white society. Aside from teaching native children trades, Christianization took place as well as changing the way these native children lived. Most notably was their cultural customs and in the photographs it is very evident. One big change that made the children seem more assimilated was their hair. In the before picture, all four children have long hair and is somewhat difficult to easily identify if the child is a male or female. Long hair was a cultural thing to natives, thus, schools like Carlisle did not value nor would they tolerate this traditional native aspect to continue. This is why in the after picture, the boys have their hair cut and combed and the girls keep their long hair but also combed. Hair stood out to me and signaled that this was one way for the natives to be assimilated into white society. Also, and perhaps most notable of any feature is the clothing that the children are wearing. In the before picture, clothing is almost similar in style for both the boys and girls. In the after picture, very gender distinct clothing is on each child. The boys are in button collar shirts whereas the girls are in long dresses. This was another way to assimilate the natives into white society while at the same time not allowing them to keep their native clothing style. The photographs show the beginning of the end of native culture. The Native American people remain physically, but not their culture.

  • Krystal Cervantes

    For this week’s assignment I am analyzing Tom Torlino’s before and after pictures and the Sioux before and after pictures to go along with an analysis on Luther Standing Bear’s experiences at the boarding school meant to convert Native Americans to white American ways of living.

    These photographs deeply saddened and troubled me. I could not help but relate them to Luther Standing Bear’s accounts of living in the boarding school. Standing Bear described how their hair was cut and they were forced to wear white man’s clothing. It was one thing to envision it in my mind, but another to see the real results in front of me. These boarding schools worked tirelessly to destroy and eradicate the Native American way of life by taking away any form of expression that could have been used to express the cultures of these children and young adults.

    In the before photographs, the Native American youth are dressed in their traditional cultural clothing and are entirely their own selves. The after pictures depict, too perfectly, the results of what Standing Bear lived through at the boarding school. Suffering through rigorous transformation immediately upon arrival and having to become darker white people who would not quite fit in either the white world or the Native American world.

    Another deeply troubling aspect of these photographs is how they appear to look lighter skinned in the after pictures. I am not sure if this is due to lighting, makeup, lack of exposure in the outdoors, or another form of conversion.

  • bennett shafer

    I found the two pictures documenting the three Sioux students at Carlisle rich with important themes. It is interesting to note the little changes between the two photos. The clothes, hair, and even the fact that they are sitting in chairs in the later photo. I think these two photos do a tremendous job at exposing the loss of Native American identity. They were forced to adapt to the civilized way of life, and the Carlisle School is a fantastic representation of the intentional eradication of culture. The photos argue that the new way of life is the better one. Dirty to clean. Long hair to short. These subtle changes are meant to represent the cleaning up of their culture. The photos with the Chiracahua Apaches highlight these shifts quite accurately. We know by now that the U.S. saw Indians as savages that lived an uncivilized way of life. It would appear then that the U.S. felt that they were doing the Native Americans good. In addition, the decision to civilize them marks a pivotal shift in U.S. and Native American relations. Prior to this, the U.S. government took a firm stance against the idea of assimilation. A more militaristic and hostile approach was taken. However, the idea of sending them to school and opening a path toward citizenship was an approach not seen before.

    In the larger context, the photos and Standing Bear’s account of Carlisle School depict the bigger imperial picture at the time. The British Empire took a similar approach with colonies in Africa. They branded the natives there as dirty and needed to be cleaned up. It is interesting to discover the widespread themes taking place around the world. The idea of the U.S. lighting up the West, creating a cleaner culture (literally), and promoting education are all significant to the late 19th century. Ultimately, the roll into the end of the 19th century ignite many massive shifts and start the beginning of a new attitude toward Native Americans.

  • Kyra Schoonover

    I chose to analyze the two most upper right photos documenting two groups of children who attended Carlisle Indian School. The photographs themselves make a strong statement about the school’s power to assimilate its pupils. In the top photo, the children are newly arrived at Carlisle and retain some elements of their Native American heritage, including wearing feathers atop their head. In the photo beneath it, a different group of people has attended the school for four months and they no longer wear traditional clothing or accessories. The visual transformation of identity in the photographs is supported by Luther Standing Bear’s document, in which he describes how clothing was the first element of Native American culture that the Carlisle Indian school sought to erase. In addition, Luther Standing Bear’s memories relate tragedies that cannot be conveyed through photographs: the students were forbidden to speak their native languages, they were assigned new White names, and they were forced to adopt a new diet. Although the photographs do not show these changes, the overall mood and tone of the images, coupled with the striking physical contrasts of the group who had attended for just four months, supports Luther Standing Bear’s Claims. The Carlisle Indian School and the forced assimilation of Native Americans into “American” culture represents the ultimate loss of autonomy for the Native American people, and a troubling sign of cultural erasure that would gradually become even more pronounced throughout American history.