First Peoples and Schooling

Document 1: Report to the New England Company

Source: Walter Bromley to the New England Company, 22 September 1822, New Brunswick Museum, Historical Documents: Indian Academy Sussex, F242-4.


On the morning of the 15th I proceeded with Messrs. Arnold and Willis to the college where we found 29 white and 15 Indian children. The Madras system having been introduced the school was opened with the usual ceremony of chanting a great part of the Church of England service in which the Indian children joined the class afterwards went through their exercises of spelling and reading, the Indian children forming a class of themselves of 10 Boys and 5 Girls. I heard every one of these children read the testament and saw them write upon slates all of which they performed to my satisfaction and indeed as well as the white children. I also saw specimens of writing on paper some of which were well executed.

They were then ordered to cypher when each of them began to work a sum the senior boy in the Rule of three and so in rotation down to simple addition according to their several capacities. I examined them but found them deficient, indeed the Revd Mr. Willis hinted to Mr. Leggett the teacher in my hearing that he would call again in the course of a fortnight for the purpose of ascertaining whether more attention had been paid to this branch of education. It frequently happens that teachers push their scholars too fast forward in Arithmetic, a practice by no means confined to America.

The examination being ended I expressed a wish to the Revd. Mr. Arnold to see some of those Indians ‘who having finished their apprenticeship were no longer under the protection of your society.’ We accordingly proceeded to a place called Indian Creek where there is a piece of land belonging to the company consisting of 200 acres situated about 3 miles distant from the college which Mr. Arnold informed me had been purchased for L60. Here we found a Log Hut, a patch of potatoes and a quantity of hay, but no stock and the Indians were from home. After some search we found [Moleir] Thomas sitting in a field with several small children.

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I may venture to assure your venerable Society that from the period of my landing in the province of New Brunswick to the day I left it I heard nothing but complaints of the most serious nature from all quarters respecting the treatment of the Indians formerly under the care of the society and I shall endeavor to point out as briefly as possible the evils which occasioned them under the following heads-

  • 1st. The character of the people to whom the children were indented.
  • 2nd. What kind of instruction the children were likely to receive under such people.
  • 3rd. The probability of their becoming useful and efficient members of society after the completion of the terms of their apprenticeships.

First.

It is notorious that whether the inhabitants of Sussex Vale have a competent knowledge of the rudiments of an English education or not the Indian children formerly under their care have derived no benefit whatever from their instruction. The young men particularly and some of the old inhabitants are very dissipated in their habits and judging from their conversation their religious and other knowledge is by no means extensive.

Second.

The BOYS it is true are instructed in all kinds of manual labor and the girls in every sort of household work suited to their sex. With these arts they appear perfectly conversant, as a Boy of 15 or 16 will perform as much labor for his master as would be expected from a hired man at the rate of L25 per annum. Of the advantages accruing from their labor the Farmers appear to have availed themselves as respects those Indians formerly under the care of the Society for they seldom sent them to school; but this observation is not intended to apply to the children now under the care of the Society who appear to have attended the College more regularly within the last few years, but as the education of a child does not depend altogether on what he learns at school, it may safely be inferred that he will acquire the habits and manners of those with whom he is obliged to associate, and as the Indians have ever been considered a most inferior race and would not be received into the Farmers’ houses without a pecuniary consideration, they are created as menial servants and compelled to do every kind of drudgery, their minds consequently become debased and their intellectual powers find no scope for improvement. It would appear that the Farmers are only obliged to send the children to school half the year. Whether this power, which is discretionary, is abused or not, I do not know; but the frequent non-attendance of the Indian children is a subject of complaint by the schoolmaster.

Third.

The improbability of their becoming useful and efficient members of society after they shall have completed the terms of their apprenticeships.

It is certain that the Indians on being released from their apprenticeships have lost all relish for a savage life, and have never in any instance been known to intermarry with the wild Indians, and as the white people consider them an inferior race, they necessarily become [sic.] a peculiar distinct people, shut out from all society, and having no lands to cultivate or any kind of assistance afforded them, they are compelled to go from house to house in search of food, occaisionally hiring themselves out among the Farmers.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

It would appear that the money voted by the New England Company has been with a few exceptions expended among the relatives and connections of the Revd Mr. Arnold, some of whom are men of intemperate or other immoral habits which unfit them for the charge of instructing youth, and as it would perhaps be attended with much inconvenience if not impracticable to remove the children at present under their care, should the Society wish to abandon the plan hitherto adopted at the expiration of the apprenticeship, care should be taken to insure their regular attendance at school and afterwards to provide them with land and other means of subsistence under the care of a conscientious Superintendent. I am of the opinion that the Society, having once adopted them as children, ought never to abandon them…