Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

David Rich Lewis


David Rich Lewis


These papers discuss how education is used as a tool by the dominate society to assimilate Native Americans. They discuss the events that led to the creation and later abandonment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) church's Indian Student Placement Program (ISPP) circa 1947-1990. Participants took advantage of the opportunities granted them while in the program incorporating values they deemed worthwhile and adapted others to fit existing spiritual or cultural belief systems. Despite the church's efforts however, this study finds that the ISPP failed to assimilate its participants. This study illuminates the void in the literature and recounts the personal anecdotes of thirteen Native American participants in the ISPP. Most existing studies focus on the administration of the ISPP and inadequately address the consequences of taking children from their parents and native culture. Others use culturally biased criteria to determine the assimilative effects of the ISPP. Statistical analysis and historical research delving into the inner workings and administration of the ISPP tell one side of the story; these oral histories tell another.

An analysis of the literature concerned with how education has been used to assimilate Native American children begins with works discussing Mormon and Indian relations and ends with the state of education for Native American children today. This paper finds that existing scholarship provide interesting and at times, unique discussions regarding education to the forefront, but that there are definite gaps in the literature. A comprehensive study that moves beyond federal policy and examines the strengths and weaknesses of tribally controlled educational institutions is needed.

Finally, a comparative essay shows how education has been used against Native Americans since colonial times, and against the Japanese Americans during World War II, to force their assimilation. The paper finds that many of the same key personnel that were put in charge of "enemy aliens" during World War II were tasked with terminating the government's wardship relationship with Native Americans. While Japanese Americans have become "model minorities," Native Americans remain faithful to their cultural heritage and fight for their autonomy.