The Harvard Indian College

History

 

The Indian College Conjectural Restoration

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A cornerstone of Harvard, the first university in America, is Harvard Indian College. Harvard struggled financially soon after its 1636 inception. To support the faltering college, the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England (SPGNE) raised and granted funds for Indian education at Harvard. The College, in turn promised to waive tuition and provide housing for American Indian students. The founding Harvard Charter of 1650 manifests this promise and dedicates the institution to "the education of the English & Indian Youth of this Country in knowledge: and godliness."
The Indian College’s founders hoped graduates would proselytize their home communities with the Gospel.

 

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The ca. 1655 Indian College was Harvard's first brick building, and its second building built for educational purposes. It stood west of Harvard’s Old College, approximately where Matthews Hall now stands. A total of five Native students attended the Indian College. These men were marked as future leaders, honored by their home and adopted communities.

All 17th-century finds particularize the story of the Indian College and its sweeping implications. Every fragment teaches us about the daily experiences of Indian students and their English counterparts. Today, students research the collections to explore nuances of colonial interactions that eventually transformed the globe.


 

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