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Final Project: Indian College
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Final Project: The Indian College

Did you know that Harvard once had a school solely devoted to the education and Christianization of Native Americans? Harvard’s Indian College is almost forgotten today, but in the mid-seventeenth century it formed the part of a colony-wide program that also included missions and praying towns that was designed to teach English and Protestantism to local native groups.

Today, the location of the Indian College is marked by a plaque on Matthews Hall in Harvard Yard.

"A handsome plaque on Matthews Hall, unveiled May 3, [1997] marks the site of Harvard's Indian College and salutes its first scholars. Photograph by Kris Snibbe."

Should Harvard do more to remember this chapter of its history? If so, what form of commemoration would be the most appropriate? The materials - documents, images, and web-links - listed on this page might help you to assess whether the current plaque is a suitable memorial to the Indian College.

The resources on this page are listed under three headings: The Indian College, Students of the Indian College, and Native American Students at Harvard Today.


1. The Indian College

The Inventing Harvard website includes a map showing the location of the Indian College building in the seventeenth century. By clicking on the location of the building you can read more about the reasons why the college was founded. For more information about the College, as well as information and images about its curriculum, check the website for the On Our Own Ground Conference held at Harvard last year to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Indian College.

The location of the Indian College is now marked by a plaque on the side of Matthews Hall in Harvard Yard. The Inventing Harvard website includes a page devoted to the history of Matthews Hall which features a link to an article from Harvard Magazine about the unveiling of the plaque.

In 1661, John Eliot published the first "Indian Bible," a translation of the Old and New Testaments into the local Natick-Algonquian language known as Massachusetts. Over the next few years, more than 4,500 copies were printed at the press at the Indian College.

The Slide Carousel features two annotated http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/bin/imagebase/carousel?state=cycle&info=on&startno=1&sortfield=F01&name=hsb41&search=indian|F01 of the building which housed the Indian College.

In 1840, Harvard President Josiah Quincy published a History of Harvard University in which he briefly told his version of the history of the Indian College. (pdf)

For Harvard's Tercentennial in 1936, Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison published Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century in which he devoted a full chapter to the founding of the Indian College and the experiences of its students. (pdf)

In 2005 the Harvard Anthropology Department ran an archaeological dig searching for remains of the Indian College. Click on the following Harvard Crimson article for more information.

2. The Students of the Indian College

The memory of Harvard's first generation of Native American students still seems to persist in some quarters. In this excerpt from a short story, the narrator, Georgiana, a Native American freshman at twentieth-century Harvard, is trying to summon the ghost of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, a Wampanoag who attended Harvard's Indian College, learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, graduated in 1665, and died of consumption a year later.

In 1935 as part of Harvard's Tercentennial celebrations, Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison published The Founding of Harvard College. In this brief extract, Morison discusses the impetus behind the foundation of the Indian College as well as President Henry Dunster's adoption of two Native American boys. One of these boys was probably James Printer, a student at the Indian College who trained on the Harvard printing press. (pdf)

Native American students at Harvard's Indian College hold a central place in Jill Lepore's 1999 book, The Name of War. Fiction writers have also recently begun to use such figures as characters in their historical novels. For instance, Paul Samuel Jacobs reinvented the story of James Printer in his 1997 book James Printer: A Novel of Rebellion


3. Native American Students at Harvard Today

In 1999, 1% of Harvard's 18,858 students identified themselves as Native American. For more information on the Native community at today's Harvard visit the website of HUNAP, the Harvard University Native American Program.

Based at the Kennedy School, the Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP) is a student-faculty association designed to foster community between Native Americans at Harvard and to raise awareness of issues affecting Native Americans at Harvard and beyond. As part of their activities, they host an annual Pow Wow, an invented tradition that celebrates Native American heritage. HSB41 is offering a class outing to this year's festivities.



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