Richard H. Pratt 18401924

John N. Choate (18481902)
Albumen silver print, 1880

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

This group photograph was taken at the Carlisle Indian School in 1880. It includes the school’s founder and superintendent, Richard H. Pratt, seated on the steps of a wooden bandstand alongside the Lakota chief Spotted Tail and three unidentified Quaker women from Philadelphia. A soldier who first saw action during the Civil War and later in several campaigns against hostile Native American groups in the West, Pratt believed that formal education was vital to the future welfare of tribal communities.

In 1879, while still in the U.S. Army, Pratt established a school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he hoped to transform Native American boys and girls into acculturated citizens. His educational philosophy of forced assimilation owed much to his experiences in the military. As he once explained, he believed it was necessary to “kill the Indian to save the man.”