Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Fenn

Second Advisor

Dr. Sungyun Lim

Third Advisor

Dr. Gregory Johnson


Using the administrative naming practices at Carlisle Indian Industrial School as a case study, this thesis illuminates the assimilation practices of the federal government towards Native American children in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Current historical scholarship on off-reservation, government-operated industrial schools between 1879 and 1918 takes little heed of naming practices at these institutions. The alteration of Native American student names sheds light on questions of assimilation, identity, and captivity in ways that advance the understanding of these industrial schools. Most importantly, it puts the experiences of individual students at center stage. The Anglicization of Native American student names demonstrates how the practices at these schools put children in a liminal state intended to eradicate their previous identities before assimilation into white society. Tracking student names however, reveals a more complicated story. In fact, the evolution of student names demonstrates Native American resilience and ingenuity despite the federal government’s attempts at cultural genocide.