Critique of “If We Get the Girls, We Get the Race”

Posted: November 26th, 2013





Critique of “If We Get the Girls, We Get the Race”

            In the nineteenth century, missionaries found it important to educate Native American girls. They believed that educating the girls would contribute a lot in assimilating their traditions. In the article, experiences of these girls are explained and the effect of the education on their lives. The education is aimed at assimilating the people from their tradition through the girls. The missionaries believed that separating girls from their traditions would help assimilate their culture because their future generations would not learn from them. This is what the title “If We Get the Girls, We Get the Race,” meant. This is quite unjust to the community.

This often came with a lot of resistance from the families of the young girls. The major issue was separating the girls from their traditional responsibilities. Traditionally, Indian girls were taught how to become responsible women in future by their mothers and grand mothers. They were brought up to be submissive women to their husbands (Devens 225). The fact that the missionaries took them to boarding schools reads out that they wanted them to forget their culture completely. It is very wrong to take people away from their culture that defines their identity. I strongly believe that a community’s culture is their identity. It should therefore be protected by the communities. The mothers often threatened their daughters with scary ideas such as white man coming to harm them. By this, they were trying to protect their culture, which suggests teaching their girls in the traditional ways. However good or important education was, the Native American community had a right to their culture and decision of embracing their culture was supposed to be theirs.

Their first day at school was traumatizing when they had to travel for long distances to the boarding schools. Their hair was cut contrary to their tradition. The introduction of a foreign language was another problem in the first days. They were supposed to learn English in a short time, which made them feel isolated from their own languages. The missioners viewed their traditions as uncouth behaviors and made the girls believe that their traditional ways were inferior and they should learn of the white man’s values, which were civilized. The missionaries further believed that the Native American communities were heathens who did not have a religion. They thought of their women as being dirty, careless and lacking in manners and diligence (Devens 231). This shows lack of respect for other communities from the white man. They did not even respect their bodies when they shaved them unwillingly. This was punishing for the children who knew that hair should not be shaven. I believe that traditions are best for a community and nobody has a right of insulting them as the white man did.

The missionaries’ objective is generally known to be the spreading of Christianity. They found education to be an important tool for their work. This is important especially in reading from the Holy Scriptures. However, forcing them to learn their ways, I believe was not necessary in the spreading of Christianity. In the article, it is stated that they would lure children to school by offering them food, games and singing at school. However, the capturing of children when many did not turn up for enrollment at schools was dehumanizing to the young children

In schools, it is stated that the young girls were taught domestic chores such as cooking, sewing, and submissiveness. Some of these chores were taught by their elders at home where they were taught using traditional methods. The white man did not consider this as a way of education while even in modern society it is recognized. Today, different cultures go to school without dropping their traditions, which was possible even then.

It is clear in the article that the white man regarded himself as a superior being. The idea of judging other traditions as inferior is wrong. To him, diversity of traditions was not welcome and he took it upon himself to assimilate others. It was possible to educate the Native Americans without trying to assimilate their culture. This has had a long-term effect, which even in the current society is still felt. For instance, it is common to see white man regarded with more dignity than other communities.
















Work Cited

Devens, Carol. “If We Get the Girls, We Get the Race: Missionary Education of Native American Girls.” Journal of World History 3. 2 (1992): 219–238. Print.

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