Assimilating America.

Essay by ScarabdracCollege, Undergraduate April 2003

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Assimilating America

The United States has been called the melting pot of the world. Throughout the last couple centuries, this nation has incorporated many different cultures and people. When reading history one is given information about time periods and past events. This often leaves the reader with a cold, factual account of the time. However it often does not make the reader think about the people who lived during those times. Gertrude Bonnin's, "The School Days of an Indian Girl" and Lorraine Hansberry's, "A Raisin in the Sun" both illustrate various aspects of assimilation in America's past and present.

In "The School Days of an Indian Girl," Bonnin gives first-hand accounts of the methods used to assimilate Native Americans into the white American culture. In the beginning, missionaries visit a mother's home with a proposal. They offer a young girl an education, at a school out east. The missionaries lure the girl with the promise of big red apples.

The apples can be seen as a symbol for the American dream; a promise or hope that can be realized by attending their school. When she got to the school, Bonnin faced a system created for the sole purpose of destroying who she was. Within the first few days, the faculty forcibly cut her hair. The cutting of the hair is very symbolic. To the Sioux people, long hair is a highly valued trait. Her hair signified to her that she was still Sioux. The unyielding manner in which her hair was removed symbolizes the process through which the school removed her heritage and identity. According to Jeremy Tucker, "The process to that end came in a two-fold assault: strip away all outward signs of tribal identity and classroom instruction of the civilizing values" (Tucker). The school operated to...