“St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves”, by Karen Russell is the story of a pack of human girls who were born of werewolves. They are taken from their families in the wilderness and brought to a St. Lucy’s. It was here that they were to be civilized. The process of civilization involved stripping them of their personal and cultural identities and retraining them in a manner that was acceptable to the human world. This is a close analogy to the Residential Schools of Cultural Assimilation for native Americans from 1887 to the early 1950’s.
The story follows three girls- Jeanette, the oldest in the pack, Claudette, the narrator and middle child, and the youngest, Mirabella- as they go through the various stages of becoming civilized people. Each girl is an example of the different reactions to being placed in an unfamiliar environment and retrained. Jeanette adapts quickly, becoming the first in the pack to assimilate to the new way of life. She accepts her education and rejects her previous life with few relapses. Claudette understands the education being presented to her but resists adapting fully, her hatred turning into apathy as she quietly accepts her fate. Mirabella either does not comprehend her education, or fully ignores it, as she continually breaks the rules and boundaries set around her, eventually resulting in her removal from the school.
The Dawes Allotment Act of 1887 brought about the policy of Cultural Assimilation for the Native American peoples. Headed by Richard Henry Pratt, it founded several Residential Schools for the re-education and civilization of Native Americans. Children from various tribes and several reservations were removed from their families with the goal of being taught how to be c...
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Unseen Tears: The Native American Boarding (Residential) School Experience in Western
New York. Prod. Ron Douglas. Perf. Survivors. Native American Community Services
of Erie & Niagara County, 2013. YouTube.
Allotment Act 1887 and Assimilation." Allotment Act 1887 and Assimilation. N.p., n.d. Web.
11 May 2014.
Russell, Karen. "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves." Making Literature Matter: An
Anthology for Readers and Writers. 4th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009.
Official Report of the Nineteenth Annual Conference of Charities and Correction (1892),
46–59. Reprinted in Richard H. Pratt, “The Advantages of Mingling Indians with
Whites,” Americanizing the American Indians: Writings by the “Friends of the Indian”
1880–1900(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973), 260–271.
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