Episode 368: The Brafferton Indian School, Part 2: Legacies

Photograph of the Brafferton Indian School building from the front.
Carol M. Highsmith, “The building known simply as ‘The Brafferton…'” November 24, 2019, photograph, Library of Congress.

The Brafferton Indian School has a long and complicated legacy. Chartered with the College of William & Mary in 1693, the Brafferton Indian School’s purpose was to educate young Indigenous boys in the ways of English religion, language, and culture. The Brafferton performed this work for more than 70 years, between the arrival of its first students in 1702 and when the last documented student left the school in 1778.

This second episode in our 2-episode series about the Brafferton Indian School will focus on the legacy of the Brafferton Indian School and how it and other colonial-era Indian Schools established models for the schools the United States government and religious institutions established during the Indian Boarding School Era.

As one of the architects of these later Boarding Schools, Richard Henry Pratt, stated, the purpose of these boarding schools was to “kill the Indian and save the man.” Pratt meant that the United States government desired to assimilate and fully Americanize Indigenous children so there would be no more Native Americans.

But Indigenous peoples are resilient, and they have resisted American attempts to extinguish their cultures. So we’ll also hear from three tribal citizens in Virginia who are working in different ways to reawaken long-dormant aspects of their Indigenous cultures.

Header image: The Carlisle Indian School, founded in part Richard Henry Pratt. Francis Benjamin Johnston, “Johnston– Eighth Grade Class School Room,” Courtesy of the Cumberland County Historical Society, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, JO-02-08. Shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Creative Commons License. 

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Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.

Episode Summary

In honor of the 300th anniversary of the Brafferton Indian School building, we investigate the legacies of the Brafferton Indian school, its historical connection to Indian Boarding Schools in later centuries, and how Virginia Indian tribes are working to reawaken dormant cultural practices.

In this episode, we speak with Brooke Bauer, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, a citizen of the Catawba Nation, a potter, and author of Becoming Catawba: Catawba Indian Women and Nation Building, 1540-1840; Raven Cusatlow, an enrolled Mattaponi Tribal citizen and co-founder of Eastern Woodland Revitalization; Tanya Stewart, a citizen of the Chickahominy Tribe Eastern Division and Cultural Resources Director for the Chickahominy Eastern Division; and Kara Canaday, a citizen of the Chickahominy Tribe and Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Tribal Education Consortium.

What You’ll Discover

  • The key differences between the Brafferton Indian School and similar colonial projects and the Indian Boarding schools of the 19th and 20th centuries
  • The historical connections between the Brafferton Indian School and similar colonial projects and the Indian Boarding schools of the 19th and 20th centuries
  • Why Americans turned to Indian Boarding Schools as a solution to what they called “the Indian Problem”
  • The Carlisle Indian Industrial School
  • Cultural knowledge lost due to education at Indian Boarding Schools
  • Virginia’s 7 federally-recognized and 4 state-recognized tribes
  • The work of Eastern Woodland Revitalization
  • Cultural education efforts of the Chickahominy Eastern Division
  • Efforts to revive the Tsenacommacah Algonquian language
  • The work of the Virginia Tribal Education Consortium
  • Documenting oral histories of Virginia tribal members

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