Unraveling the white man's burden: A critical microhistory of federal Indian education policy implementation at Santa Clara Pueblo, 1902--1907

Adrea Lawrence
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Indiana University
August, 2006


This historical study inductively examines how federal Indian policy was
implemented at the Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico in the early
twentieth century. Through the letters of Clara D. True, the day school teacher
at the Pueblo from 1902-1907, and those of Clinton J. Crandall, her supervisor
who also managed the Santa Fe Indian School, the author has adapted critical
ethnographic analytic techniques to aid in constructing a microhistory of how
True and Crandall carried out federal Indian policy during her tenure at Santa
Clara. Although True and Crandall ran United States government schools for
Pueblo Indian children, they also were expected to mitigate and implement other
aspects of federal Indian policy. During the five years True was at Santa
Clara, she, Crandall, and the Santa Clara community dealt with issues of
disease, disputed land claims, citizenship, and, of course, education. The
author has found that while schooling was part of the federal government's
program of assimilating American Indian students into mainstream U.S. society,
education occurred largely beyond the walls of the classroom. While True and
Crandall were supposed to carry out federal Indian policy, the author found
that they often appropriated and reformulated policy according to the unique
circumstances at Santa Clara Pueblo. Likewise, the author has found that
members of the Santa Clara community subtly negotiated their relationships with
True and Crandall based on their previous experiences with Spanish and Mexican
colonization. This study concludes that (1) policy implementation was often
situated, ad-hoc policy making; (2) federal Indian policy in New Mexico was
racialized, but did not reflect an exclusively dichotomous Anglo-Indian
construct---Mexicans were also included, particularly when land and citizenship
were in question; (3) Anglos could not reconcile how to civilize a group of
indigenous people who, in many respects, resembled their own communities.