Episode 367: The Brafferton Indian School, Part 1

Photograph of the Brafferton building taken from the front.
Carol M. Highsmith, The building known simply as “The Brafferton” was completed in 1783 at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  November 24, 2019, photograph, Library of Congress.

In 1693, King William III and Queen Mary II of England granted a royal charter for two institutions of higher education in the Colony of Virginia. The first institution was the College of William & Mary. The second institution was the Indian School at William & Mary, known from 1723 to the present as the Brafferton Indian School.

The history of the Brafferton Indian School is a story of power, trade, land, and culture. It’s an Indigenous story. It’s also a story of English, later British, colonialism.

Over the next two episodes, we will investigate the Brafferton Indian School and the stories it tells about power, trade, land, culture, and colonialism in early America. We’ll also explore the legacy of the Brafferton and other colonial Indian schools by examining the connections between these schools and the creation of the Indian Boarding Schools that operated within the United States between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.

In this episode, we focus on the history and origins of the Brafferton Indian School.

About the Show

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 history and origins of the Brafferton Indian School and why English, later British, colonists created schools to teach young Indigenous boys tenets of the Anglican religion and English language and customs.

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, and author of Becoming Catawba: Catawba Indian Women and Nation Building, 1540-1840; Fallon Burner, Indigenous Historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; and Buck Woodard, senior professional lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at American University, cultural and historical anthropologist, and co-author and co-editor of Building the Brafferton: The Founding, Funding and Legacy of America’s Indian School.

What You’ll Discover

  • The Indigenous East of North America prior to colonization
  • The political structure of Eastern Indigenous tribes before and after colonization
  • Early diplomacy between Indigenous tribes and nations and English colonists
  • The establishment of the Virginia tributary system during the 17th century
  • How and why the Brafferton Indian School was chartered with the College of William and Mary in 1693
  • The intended purpose of the Indian School at William & Mary
  • Attempts to create Indian schools in colonial North America beyond Williamsburg
  • How Indigenous children were educated in their communities
  • How Virginia’s governor convinced Indigenous tribes to send boys to the Brafferton Indian School
  • What we know about life at the Brafferton
  • The stories of some of the students who attended the Brafferton, including John Nettles, John Montour, Robert Scholar, and Henry Bawbee
  • How some students used their education at the Brafferton to benefit their communities
  • Some of the Brafferton’s legacies
  • The names of the students we know who attended the Brafferton and the tribes they came from

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