Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to School with Sicangu Lakota

Sicangu Lakota (Rosebud Sioux) with Septima Koehler c.1900

For many people, the month of September means heading back to school, hitting the books, and getting ready to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic.  At the National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, I stumbled upon a collection of Sicangu Lakota (Rosebud Sioux) children’s schoolwork dated 1899-1901. Further investigation revealed that the assignments were completed at St. Elizabeth Mission School in South Dakota under the tutelage of sisters Septima and Aurora Koehler.

This turn of the century schoolwork is remarkable for both its familiarity and elegance.   The images pictured below are from children Eliza Standing Bear, Samuel Little Elk, and Annie Red Horse; primer class, first reader grade, and second reader grade, respectively.  The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful, sharp penmanship coming from such young children.   On closer examination, the Sicangu Lakota children were learning the same poems, stories, and simple addition in 1901 that schoolchildren learn today, over one hundred years later.

Annie Red Horse tells the story of King Midas and his golden touch.

Samuel Little Elk's illustration and penning of "Rock-a-bye Baby".


Eliza Standing Bear's illustrated arithmetic.

Of the hundreds of thousands pages contained in the manuscript collection Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records this small collection (only two folders!) of children’s school work are some of my favorite to read.  It amazes me how I can connect to these materials a hundred years after they were created: looking at them, I can remember what it was like to be a child learning about King Midas, struggling with addition, and reciting "rock-a-bye baby".

Nichole Procopenko, Archives Scanning Technician, NMAI Archives Center.

No comments:

Post a Comment