To Earn Their Place in Society: Student Scrip and a Capitalist Education at Sherman Institute

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In the late nineteenth century, off-reservation boarding schools became the instrument of choice for the United States federal government to assimilate Indigenous communities. By separating Native American families and placing children in federal schools, white officials hoped to transform them culturally, politically and economically. A telling example is the use of substitute currency, or "scrip," as a new form of economic training introduced during the 1930s. In November of 1933, school administrators at Sherman Institute in Riverside, California introduced a system of paper money to teach the school’s Native American pupils about life in a capitalist society. The existence of Sherman scrip raises critical questions about what local and federal officials wanted students to learn about economic affairs at this particular point in time, and why they chose a participatory system. Starting from the understanding that scrip was created for specific pedagogical, ideological and assimilationist purposes, this thesis explores how white educators used scrip to communicate the values of American capitalism to young Native Americans and try to shape student behavior. Keywords: Scrip currency, capitalism, Sherman Institute, off-reservation boarding schools, thrift, consumerism, possessive individualism, assimilation  
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