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Indigenous Women and WorkFrom Labor to Activism$
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Carol Williams

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037153

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037153.001.0001

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“An Indian Teacher among Indians”

“An Indian Teacher among Indians”

Native Women As Federal Employees

Chapter:
(p.210) Chapter 13 “An Indian Teacher among Indians”
Source:
Indigenous Women and Work
Author(s):

Cathleen D. Cahill

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252037153.003.0014

Scholars have emphasized that policymakers designed the federal Indian school system to assimilate Native children and create a colonial labor force by training Native female students for primarily menial domestic labor. Inadvertently, these policies brought thousands of Native people into the Indian Service in both the white-collar and the menial sector. However, we know very little about them, why they took those jobs, and how they strategically used their positions. This chapter shows that Native women adapted to the changes wrought by the modern economy; but racially marked as Indians, they also struggled for economic and cultural survival in a hostile world. In order to access their voices, it draws upon fifty-five personnel files from the Indian School Service. Beginning in 1905 the Office of Indian Affairs kept individual files for each employee that afford an intimate portrayal of the everyday work lives of female personnel. Assembling personal and professional correspondence, efficiency reports, requests for transfers or retirement, and more, the files illuminate the occupational paths of these women.

Keywords:   Native American women, federal employees, indigenous women, women's work, bureaucracy

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