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the habits of civilization, and which seems destined to continue and progress until, by a natural process of absorption, the Indian and the white become one people.
The Thomas Asylum represents a sense of duty as well as a charitable impulse of the commonwealth. It is proposed to care for orphan and destitute Indian children in this asylum, and thus save them from the consequences of a neglected youth. The forces of civilization are most effective when the children of the Indians are taken in hand early. If the natural propensity to a vagrant and idle life is permitted to obtain control, there is little hope that the Indian will ever develop into useful citizenship. The training in habits of thrift and industry must therefore commence while the character is unformed. For the 1,115 ordinary Indian children of school age the State provides, under the general provisions of the school law, 34 teachers in 30 day schools, at an annual expense of about $11,000. For the orphan and the destitute, this larger and more beneficent asylum provision is made.
The capacity of the asylum at present is sufficient to provide dormitories for 125 children, but when all the buildings of the institution are completed according to the original plan, there. will be room for 160 pupils and the necessary attendants. At the present time the main buildings are completed with the exception of one dormitory, and for this an appropriation is to be asked during the coming session of the Legislature. If granted, this will equip the asylum with a satisfactory group of dormitories, modern in plan, well built, with proper ventilation and sanitary plumbing.
It has been said by persons who have seen this asylum that because these orphans are of the Indian race, the State should not provide a good equipment for the institution. That they must go out from the asylum to cabin homes is no reason they should be deprived of the educational advantages of proper environment during the years they are in the care of the State. Not all will remain “cabin Indians ”—some will be so strongly influenced during their school life that they will strive to make
better homes which will continue for them the pleasant associations of their early years. Even those who remain “ cabin Indians ” will take to their cabins an impulse and ambition for better things. Thus, although at first sight these substantial buildings and their good equipment may seem unnecessary, they are silent forces which mold Indian character. It must also be remembered that this institution has a constant educational influence upon the adult population of the various reservations. The friends and relatives who visit the Indian children are impressed by the buildings and the furnishing. The methods of the asylum and its provision for the children are carefully noted, and on remote reservations the memory of what the State considers necessary for Indian youth stimulates the older Indians to better their own condition.
At the present time the dormitories of the institution fitly represent two periods in its history. The building known as the “Nursery,” now used as a dormitory for the boys, is one of the first structures erected by private charity. Its small, ill arranged, and poorly ventilated rooms show the difficulty of securing funds from people who were doing all in their power to carry on many charitable works. They show also the early conception of what was thought to be a fairly satisfactory building for a reservation boarding school. The new brick dormitories, bright, roomy and well arranged, show a larger conception of public duty as well as the change which years have wrought in the plans for school buildings. Frame structures are unsuitable for dormitory purposes because they are so liable to destruction by fire. The cost for repair is greater than in brick buildings, and the life of the structure is much shorter. It is now proposed to move this old “ Nursery” building to a proper site in the rear of the new group, and convert it into a laundry. It is also proposed to remove the power house to a more suitable location, and, when these changes are made, the State of New York will possess an institution well arranged and thoroughly adapted to asylum purposes.
It is somewhat unfortunate that the asylum is at such a distance from any of the main thoroughfares of the State. It is about three miles from the nearest railroad station, and to many of the thousands of travelers who pass by on the trains its very existence is unknown. Although it is within thirty miles of the city of Buffalo, it is safe to say that not one person in a hundred of those who reside in that city knows of its work. Interest is stimulated by observation, and an institution which is seen by a great many people arouses a sympathy and appreciation which is not awakened where the institution is isolated. This should have been considered when the State undertook the establishment of an asylum of this character.
THE COST OF THE BUILDINGS.
The original frame structures were built by the philanthropic Quaker, William E. Thomas, after whom the asylum is named, as a direct consequence of an interest awakened in the orphan and neglected young people of the Six Nations, by the Rev. Ashur Wright, D. D. When the State undertook the control and rebuilding of the institution, it appropriated $14,000 for three new buildings. The original appropriation of $22,000 for two brick dormitories, and of $10,000 for a school building, proved insufficient, and an additional appropriation of $12,000 became necessary. For all of the brick dormitories a total of $45,000 has been appropriated by the Legislature. Beside this amount, appropriations of $60,000 have been made for an administration building, a school building, the dining hall, kitchen, and assembly building. Thus, up to the present time, the total appropriations for the new buildings amount to $105,000.
It is proposed to ask the coming Legislature for an additional sum of $22,000 to complete all the dormitories. If this be granted, the total cost of the changes made necessary to provide suitable accommodations for 160 children and necessary attendants will be $127,000. This will make the gross per capita cost of the asylum $793.75. If, however, the cost of these administration buildings be deducted, and the actual expense
for dormitories be considered, it appears that the net per capita cost will be less than $420.
Certain it is that this group of structures has not been burdensome to the State so far as its cost is concerned. The scope of the work has broadened with the change in the architecture. Now a liberal education is offered to the Indian children who are fortunate enough to be tạken under the care of the State in this asylum. It is not a Hampton, nor a Carlisle, but in a modest way it seeks the intellectual advancement of the children committed to its care, and in some respects its work is better, for its discipline is mild and paternal rather than military.
The studies of the six grades are suited to the average of Indian children, and, while the school is in no sense a sectarian school, it is dominated by a religious influence.
Some of the pupils from this school have gone in past years to institutions of higher learning, and it is encouraging to note that the older pupils have regularly taken the Regents' examinations, meeting with much success. On the whole, your Committee is glad to be able to report favorably upon the work and prospects of this institution.
W. H. GRATWICK, Committee on Thomas Asylum.