Richard Henry Pratt devoted his life to public service, beginning as a soldier in the Civil War and later fighting Indians on the frontier. It was on the frontier that Pratt came in contact with the American Indian and began developing the theories that were to guide him throughout his life.
It was Pratt’s belief that the American Indian, although leading a savage and uncivilized life, was fully capable of being educated and absorbed into American society. Pratt gained support for this view when he commanded a group of seventy-two Indian prisoners at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1875. Through education and humane treatment, Pratt believed that even the most “savage” of Indians might become educated and law abiding citizens.