Harvard announces return of Native hair samples
Cutting hair symbolized the beginning of assimilation for boarding school students
December 5, 2022
WARNING: This story has disturbing details about residential and boarding schools. If you are feeling triggered, here is a resource list for trauma responses from the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in the US. The National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline in Canada can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.
Tucked in hundreds of envelopes is the hair cut from Native children as they arrived at boarding schools. Hidden away for nearly 100 years in the recesses of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, the collection of hair samples offers tangible evidence of the trauma of assimilation.
According to the hygiene of the day, cropping hair was the surest way to avoid lice among the crowded populations of children coerced to attend the nation’s Indian boarding schools.