Reading #13

Theme 1: Ethnic Identity

Period: American (1867 - present)

The following information about education during the Russian period is taken from Dorothy Knee Jonesís book, A Century of Servitude: Pribilof Aleuts Under U.S. Rule (1980, p. 28):

[Under terms of its lease, the American Commercial Company] started American schools in both villages. . . . The St. George agent [observed]: "They are making rapid progress and feel anxious to learn the English language. Even men who have advanced to the age of 30 and 40 attend school."

This educational honeymoon was short-lived. By 1873 agents began to complain about increasing Aleut resistance to the American schools, stemming from parentsí fear that "in learning English their children will forget their Russian and weaken their attachment to the church." Aleuts resisted not learning English per se but the low priority agents placed on Russian education. The priests were allowed to teach Russian school only after the eight-month American school session ended. By 1873 the school population had dwindled to just a few students.

[Federal administrators issued] explicit instructions to agents to compel Aleutsí school attendance. . . . Agents hit children and incarcerated both parents and children. . . . These punishments, as humiliating and intimidating as they were, did not by themselves affect the Aleutsí compliance but the imposition of fines did. Agents began to fine parents for every day a child was absent. Continued resistance by Aleuts threatened their very livelihood and they submitted, but covert resistance to the schools, manifested in a refusal to learn, continued for many years.

[Note: Today many Pribilovians are bilingual, speaking Unangan and English. All children are fluent in English. In 1975 Pribilof Islanders gained control over their schools with the formation of their own school district. School board members are now elected from among residents and schools are administered according to local decisions.]

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