Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Different Perspective on St. Joseph's Industrial School from Elaine Doxtator Raddatz

It is now taught in K-12 scoial studies classes that Native American boarding schools were "tools of enforced assimilation."  And they were.  I don't intend for this blogpost to be meant as an argument against that sad reality.  Forced assimilation was a very bad thing.

Students (residents) of Carlisle Indian School, Carlisle, PA.

Nevertheless, if you've been reading this blog, you know that, as a tribe, the Stockbridge Mohicans accepted a Christian mission voluntarily in 1734.  As a result, by the time some of the Stockbridges became students at St. Joseph's Industrial School on the neighboring Menominee Reservation, they were speaking better English than the white people who ran the place.  At least that is what Elaine Doxtator Raddatz's mother told her about her expeience there.

Elaine Doxtator Raddatz, a longtime resident of Chilton and Calumet County, Wisconsin, and co-author of The Stockbridge Story walked on to the next world last year.  Before she died she completed a book of family recollections, which was produced for her family members and not for sale.  However, a copy of Ms. Raddatz's book, Touching Leaves, is available at the Arvid E. Miller Library-Museum on the Stockbridge Reservation.

As Doxtator Raddatz recalls her mother telling it, St. Joseph's Industrial School was, at first, kind of scary because everybody lived in "a big, strange house."  But, at the same time, her mother said that she "loved it there," and that the "priests, brothers, and nuns helped the children with schoolwork, homemaking, gardening, and other trades. They were like a huge family."

In regards to language, here is how Doxtator Raddatz quoted her mother:

The nuns spoke German and French and the brothers and priests spoke German and Polish.  The Indian children could speak in the Menominee language and French but I couldn't speak in any of those languages.  I spoke English!
Another intriguing recollection of St. Joseph's in Touching Leaves has us witnessing how Elaine Doxtator Raddatz's mother became a good enough organist that she was asked to teach the younger girls how to play that instrument.  One of her students was a "gentle little girl named Evelyn Frechette."  Lilttle Evelyn later took on the nickname Billie and, when grown up she became the girlfriend of one of America's most notorious bank-robbers, John Dillinger.

See these other possts about the St. Josph's Industrial School:

Sarah Shillinger's Case Study: An Oral History of St. Joseph's
Menominee Confessions to Sister Mary Ignace