Thursday, September 12, 2013

Is Short Hair More "Civilized"? (The U.S. Government Thought So)

What does it mean to be "civilized"? It is a question we no longer ask today because we've become sensitive to what happens when one group of people - a group that assumes their ways are better - interferes with another group and tells them what to do. But the word "civilized" was still being used in United States government documents at the beginning of the last century.
This comes from Slate's historical blog, The Vault In case you cannot read the small text, here is a transcript:
This Office desires to call your attention to a few customs among the Indians, which, it is believed, should be modified or discontinued. 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 returned male student far too frequently goes back to his reservation and falls into the the old custom of letting his hair grow long....
The letter continues for another page and a half, if you find it outrageous or outrageously quaint, you may want to read the post that goes with it.

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