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Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamations

Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamations

by Jacqueline Fear-Segal, Susan D. Rose

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The Carlisle Indian School (1879–1918) was an audacious educational experiment. Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt, the school’s founder and first superintendent, persuaded the federal government that training Native children to accept the white man’s ways and values would be more efficient than fighting deadly battles. The result was that the last Indian war would be waged against Native children in the classroom.

More than 8,500 children from virtually every Native nation in the United States were taken from their homes and transported to Pennsylvania. Carlisle provided a blueprint for the federal Indian school system that was established across the United States and also served as a model for many residential schools in Canada. The Carlisle experiment initiated patterns of dislocation and rupture far deeper and more profound and enduring than its founder and supporters ever grasped.      

Carlisle Indian Industrial School offers varied perspectives on the school by interweaving the voices of students’ descendants, poets, and activists with cutting-edge research by Native and non-Native scholars. These contributions reveal the continuing impact and vitality of historical and collective memory, as well as the complex and enduring legacies of a school that still affects the lives of many Native Americans.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803295070
Publisher: Nebraska
Publication date: 10/01/2016
Series: Indigenous Education
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 440
Sales rank: 662,700
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Jacqueline Fear-Segal is a professor of American and Indigenous histories at the University of East Anglia, UK. She is the author of White Man’s Club: Schools, Race, and the Struggle of Indian Acculturation (Nebraska, 2007) and coeditor of Indigenous Bodies: Reviewing, Relocating, Reclaiming. Susan D. Rose is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology at Dickinson College. She is the author of Keeping Them Out of the Hands of Satan: Evangelical Schooling in America and Challenging Global Gender Violence and coauthor of Exporting the American Gospel: Global Christian Fundamentalism.

Read an Excerpt

Carlisle Indian Industrial School

Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamations

By Jacqueline Fear-Segal, Susan D. Rose


Copyright © 2016 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8032-9507-0


The Stones at Carlisle

N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa)

Here are six rows of children.How
Symmetrical the gray array.
The names are dim and distant now.
We come and go, and here they stay.
Please pray they rest, and bless each name,
Then reckon innocence and shame.

Some of the stones bear no names. They are the tombs of the unknown children, those who died here between 1879 and 1918 during the tenure of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. They were American Indian children, and they came from far away, from places with American names — Piqua, Chinle, Tahlequah, Bimidji, Nespelem, Oraibi. Moreover, in the course of time and renovation the graves were removed from their original placement; the current tombstones are new, and many no longer mark the graves of those whose names they bear. The "tombs of the unknown children" is a sad but accurate designation.

Names are especially important in Native American culture. Names and being are thought to be indivisible. One who bears no name cannot truly be said to exist, for one has being in his name. His name stands for him; it is his shield. I am Tsoai-talee, therefore I am. In this context we see how serious is the loss of one's name. In the case of the tombstones at Carlisle we are talking about the crime of neglect and negation. We are talking not only about the theft of identity, but indeed the theft of essential being.

I am Tsoai-talee. "Rock tree boy." I am Tsoai-talee of the Kiowa nation. I was given that name by Pohd-lohk, also called "Kiowa George," an elder, a chief, and an arrow maker. Before I was a year old my parents took me to Devil's Tower, Wyoming, on the apron of the Black Hills. It is a sacred place in Kiowa tradition. Tsoai, the Rock Tree, is a monolith that rises above the timbered banks of the Belle Fousche River. In conformation it closely resembles the stump of a tree, but it is an immensity that has to be seen to be believed. It rises a thousand feet from base to summit. It is a mile around at the base. When the Kiowas migrated from the Yellowstone some hundreds of years ago, they camped in the Black Hills and of course encountered the rock tree. They must have been struck dumb. What was it? How did it come to be? How was it to be accommodated to the human condition? A story must be told. From the time Man acquired language, all the answers to all the questions in the world have been contained in story.

Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother. The boy pretended to be a bear, and he chased his sisters, who pretended to be afraid. They ran through the woods. Then suddenly a strange and terrible thing happened. The boy was turned into a real bear. The sisters were truly terrified, and they ran for their lives, the bear after them. They came upon a very large tree stump. The tree spoke to them, "Climb upon me, and I will save you." They did so, and the tree began to grow. The bear came to the tree, but the sisters were beyond its reach. The bear reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of the Big Dipper.

For a moment think of the story, and think of what purpose it serves. It explains the origin and being of Tsoai, the great monolith that is strange and unique and profound in nature. Never again will it be the unspeakable unknown. By means of the story has Tsoai come into the sphere of Man's perception. It now belongs to us. Moreover the story relates us to the stars. We have kinsmen in the night sky. Like the sisters we are borne into infinity and immortality. Do you hear what I am saying about the story? Story is the farthest reach of the imagination. It is the breath of God.

And the story of Tsoai is the story of my name. I am Tsoai-talee. I am the boy who turned into a bear.

We have come together in a sacred and storied place, a place made sacred by sacrifice, and by the investment of men, women, and especially children in a critical chapter of American history. Isn't it a stroke of irony that another sacred place is nearby, one where the very fate of our nation was determined? These footnotes, these chapters in their respective ways, define the American experience. Carlisle, in a more subtle and obscure story than that of Gettysburg, is a place-name among place-names on a chronological map that spans time and the continent, names such as San Salvador, Mankato, Canyon de Chelly, the Little Bighorn, Sand Creek, Tenochticlan, and Wounded Knee, among others.

But what truly distinguishes Carlisle is a politics of ambiguity and a policy of moral confusion. What are we to think of Richard Henry Pratt? In a biographical sketch on the Internet there is this sentence: "The legacy of Pratt's boarding school programs is felt by modern Native American tribes, where he is often remembered not as a champion for Native American rights but as leader of a cultural genocide that targeted children." The founder and superintendent of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School is an enigma, and a frightening one at that. His motto, "Kill the Indian and save the man," suggests the tension of a wounded intelligence. This curious formula is at best a contradiction in terms. Man and Indian are separated by a gratuitous bias that sadly informs the whole record of white-Indian relations. The Indian is not a man; he is an inferior creature who can become a man only if his natural identity is destroyed. The bias is given a similar expression in the old byword, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." If Richard Henry Pratt was possessed of good intentions in his missionary zeal, they were negated by the imposition of mottos and clichés.

We must imagine Carlisle. It is a kind of mythic memory in the American mind. Perhaps it is an extension of the Wild West, which is so gaudy and predictable in the dime novels and stock Hollywood films. Here we have yet again the never-ending conflict between the cavalry and the Indians, removed to the Wild East. The crucial difference, of course, is that the Indians who take the field are not fabled warriors like Geronimo or Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull. They are children. They are those who lie beneath the stones of Carlisle.

Imagine the children. They have no choice and no advantage whatsoever. They are helpless and afraid. They are brought here by force, and in a matter of days they are dispossessed of their names, their dress, their religion, their language, their childhood, their culture, their identity, their human being.

How could they live through such an experience? As a testament to human will and endurance, many did; it was no doubt a bare survival. There was a curious and perhaps unforeseeable backlash to the boarding school experiment. In it there were the seeds of Indian unification. Diversity has always been a principal element of the Indian world. The children who came to Carlisle were divided from each other in obvious and significant ways. They came from many different worlds, they spoke many different languages, they had different systems of belief and ceremony, different histories, economies, philosophies, political and military organizations — in short, different ways of seeing themselves and the world around them. Carlisle inadvertently created the necessity of ethnic integration, of bonding, of being Indian. It was the mere matrix of survival.

In her landmark study, White Man's Club, Jacqueline FearSegal considers the voice of the Man-on-the-Bandstand, an instrument that was played relentlessly on the hearing of the Carlisle children. I quote, "Although he worked to furnish the children with an inner voice of conscience, he could never be sure that this would not be drowned out by older, deeper Indian voices."

The "older, deeper Indian voices" are those that were heard exclusively in the hearts and minds of the Carlisle children. They were the voices of tradition and tenure, a tenure of thirty thousand years on the North American continent, indeed of origin in the mist of timelessness. The voices were spoken in a hundred different languages, but they were universally intelligible in the inviolable underworld of the children's essential existence. They were the "they say" of the Native spirit.

They say
They say there was Raven
They say there was Raven his talons in the sun
And light splashed upon the stones
And light grew up among the stones
They say the cold informed it
It could not be broken
But they say the light fell from Raven's hands
Light was broken and rang upon the stones
And then cold splinters of light could be heard
Ringing and popping in the six directions
Light broke upon the darkness even as
Words broke upon the silence
First light first words
That is what they say
The sight and sound of origin
The north and night of origin and all became
They say
And it was made sacred in the saying
They say
We have always had words they say
They say
They say
First light
First words
They say
Raven sang a throaty song
Shhh shhh shhh
Breaks the dawn in stillness
Shhh shhh shhh
In wondrous colors
The eldest wind lowing
Shhh shhh shhh
In wondrous colors
The first sky like sealskin
A hide scraped for drawing
A plane luminous with glitter
Drawn with light
Shhh shhh shhh
In wondrous colors
Then were mountains thrown away
On the sky standing still forever
Cradling the dawn
Drawn with light
Berries bleeding on the sun
Shhh shhh shhh
In wondrous colors
A sky of silver and violet
Shot through with red and orange
Raven was not only ancient but original, of the
Very essence of origin, having being before all others.
Raven had heft and sheen, had the Northern Dawn
And lightning about him. Above all, Raven had spirit,
Was spirit, the force that held all the threads of
The world together in the weaving of Creation, in a whole
Design, in a balance of beauty and being. And to these
Were added mischief and magic. For these were threads
In the fabric of origin. These also were things of the
Shaman. In the name of Raven there is proportion, there is
Beauty, there is meaning, there is mischief, and there is
Magic. Shaman is the Raven's name. Raven is one with the
Name, the Word. For words, like Raven, wheel and hover and
Soar and glide. They soothe and rend. They turn and strike.
They cast shadows that cannot be caught and held. In patterns of
Shade on the snow, Raven plays with foxes.
We praise the Raven
We fear the Raven
We revere the Raven
For his knowing
For his guile
Oo ae la keshla
Oo ae la keshla
Oo ae la keshla
Oo ae la keshla
For his guile

Names, voices, imagination, innocence, and shame. These are among the elements of the story of Carlisle. Carlisle is a storied place.

I wrote a play about Carlisle, titled The Moon in Two Windows. I would like to tell you a little about the play and then give you an excerpt from it, as a closing to my introduction for this collection.

It is a screenplay, and so the locations are varied. Most of the action takes place at the school. The principle characters are Richard Henry Pratt and Luther Standing Bear. Jim Thorpe plays a part, as do several other well-known Indians. A little girl, Grey Calf, called "Grass," is a ghost. She has died on the train that brought the first children to Carlisle. Pratt is horrified that Grass has died, and in his panic he orders his aide Etahdleau to bury the body secretly. Etahdleau does so, but he keeps her doll and eyeglasses. All the children know what has happened, but when Grass comes among then from time to time as a ghost, they accept her without question.

There is a scene in which Luther and Etahdleau talk: Luther: Have you seen Grass?

Etahdleau: Not today.

Luther: You know, I thought I saw her in the room tonight, earlier, when we were in the meeting — came in and stand in the darkness for just a minute or two. And then she was gone.

Etahdleau: She is everywhere, and nowhere.

Luther: She does not see very well, I think.

Etahdleau: I know. I have her glasses. I will give them to her.

Then we see Indian Field, the athletic field at Carlisle. It is a beautiful, bright day, and in the distance two figures — a man and a child, holding hands. Now and then the little girl skips and hops, and we hear the faint sound of laughter. We approach a little closer, and the little girl is in her tattered dress, and the sun glints upon her glasses. The man takes both of the girl's hands and swings her round and round.

In a later scene Pratt, late at night, is at home. He has fallen asleep in his easy chair. He twitches, apparently dreaming. A figure in silhouette appears in the doorway. He looks up, blinking.

Pratt: Who's there? ... you? (It is Grass. She stares at him through her Glasses. The light is such that the lenses reflect it. Otherwise She is in shadow, dimly visible.) What is it? What do you want?

Grass: I have come to forgive you.

Pratt: Forgive? Me? What are you ... talking about?

Grass: You dishonored my death. You threw me away. You buried me without a name, as if I had not lived. It was shameful.

Pratt is in a cold sweat. He does not know if he is awake or if he is dreaming.

Pratt: No, no ... I don't know ... what you're talking about.

Grass: It doesn't matter. I have earned my death. I am going home. I forgive you.

Pratt blinks. This is beyond him. His expression goes from fear to anger.

Pratt: You forgive me? Why, why, how dare you! I don't want your forgiveness. I have done nothing to be forgiven! How dare you!

Grass is perfectly calm, serene.

Grass: The warriors and the chiefs have brought medicine for me. And they will soon bring medicine for you. Do not be afraid. Be at peace. They will bring you sage and sweetgrass. When they come, and you see them, how beautiful and fierce they are in their wet paint, you will grow peaceful, won't you? When you hear their cries and their honor songs, when you hear the beating of their horses' hooves, you will be peaceful, won't you? And when they touch you and then let you go, you will be peaceful, won't you? I forgive you. Aiyee!

And she is gone.

In the final scene, Pratt and Luther come together for the last time. Following the Carlisle–Army football game of 1912 they meet in New York City to visit and reminisce. Luther is a grown man. Pratt has grown old.

Pratt: Remember ... well, you remember.

Luther: I remember it all, Captain. Everything. I do remember. I remember, as a little boy on the train, I saw the moon in the window where I sat. And then, a few minutes later, I saw the moon in the window on the other side of the train. It seemed to me that the moon had flown across the sky. I was frightened.

Pratt: Isn't that funny? It happens to me, too. There are many turns in the road, isn't that so? You had been turned around without knowing it. You were disoriented.

Luther: There was more to it than that, I think. The moon in two windows. It is a strange thing, somehow, an unnatural thing. What you Christians call a miracle.

Pratt: What is natural, I wonder. The natural world you lived in was hopeless. The miracle was that you escaped it. I like to think that I had something to do with bringing about that miracle. With the help of others — and with God's help above all — I saved those I could.

Luther: Richard, have you been to the cemetery?

Pratt: What? The cemetery?

Luther: At the school. The graves of the children. Many people go there now. They bring flowers and ribbons — sometimes tobacco and cornmeal, pollen. Have you gone there?

Pratt: You have to understand that the young people who died there were beyond help. They were dying before they left the camps. We must think of the ones who didn't die, the many hundreds who lived. They are healthy, happy human beings. And they produce healthy, happy children of their own. They are well-adjusted Americans. They are ...

Luther: Civilized.

Pratt: Yes, indeed, civilized. (Pratt slowly gets to his feet. He has grown feeble with age.) I must go, Luther. Shake my hand. It was wonderful to see you again.

Luther stands and takes his hand.

Luther: Goodnight, Captain Pratt, and goodbye.

Dissolve to: Exterior, Arlington National Cemetery. Day. Luther stands at Pratt's grave. On the simple headstone are the words:


Exterior. Carlisle cemetery. Day. Luther and his son Stone walk among the stones. They are the only ones there.

Luther (VO): The Indian Industrial School at Carlisle was a kind of laboratory in which our hearts were tested. We were all shaped by that experience. Some of us were destroyed, and some were made stronger. I believe that; I know it to be true. Captain Pratt, and others after him, came for the children and took them away. For every one of them, for every single child, it was a passage into darkness. It was a kind of quest, not a quest for glory, but a quest for survival. They were all brave; they did a brave thing. Those who died on the journey were especially brave, and their bravery is signed here in stone. Theirs is the sacrifice that makes sacred this ground. But they were all brave, those who lived and those who died; all were marked by Carlisle. We were children who ventured into the unknown. And if again my father told me to go away from my Indian home into an alien world that I could not have imagined, I would do it. I would go, as all of us did, with all the love and courage in my heart. I would do a brave thing.


Excerpted from Carlisle Indian Industrial School by Jacqueline Fear-Segal, Susan D. Rose. Copyright © 2016 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations,
Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose,
Welcome, with Seneca Thanksgiving Prayer "We Are One" by Peter Jemison (Seneca),
Part 1. A Sacred and Storied Place,
1. The Stones at Carlisle N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa),
2. Before Carlisle: The Lower Susquehanna Valley as Contested Native Space Christopher J. Bilodeau,
Part 2. Student Lives and Losses,
3. Photograph: Carlisle Poem — Who Is This Boy? Maurice Kenny (Mohawk),
4. The Names Barbara Landis,
5. White Power and the Performance of Assimilation: Lincoln Institute and Carlisle Indian School Louellyn White (Mohawk),
6. The Imperial Gridiron: Dealing with the Legacy of Carlisle Indian School Sports John Bloom,
7. Waste Maurice Kenny (Mohawk),
Part 3. Carlisle Indian School Cemetery,
8. Cementerio indio Eduardo Jordá Translation by Mark C. Aldrich,
9. The History and Reclamation of a Sacred Space: The Indian School Cemetery Jacqueline Fear-Segal,
10. Death at Carlisle: Naming the Unknowns in the Cemetery Barbara Landis,
Part 4. Reclamations,
11. The Lost Ones: Piecing Together the Story Jacqueline Fear-Segal,
12. Necropolitics, Carlisle Indian School, and Ndé Memory Margo Tamez (Ndé/Lipan Apache),
13. Sacred Journey: Restoring My Plains Indian Tipi Carolyn Rittenhouse (Lakota),
14. Carlisle Farmhouse: A Major Site of Memory Carolyn Tolman,
Part 5. Revisioning the Past,
15. Research Note on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School Digital Humanities Project Malinda Triller Doran,
16. Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Projects for Teaching Paul Brawdy and Anne-Claire Fisher,
Part 6. Reflections and Responses,
17. The Spirit Survives Dovie Thomason (Lakota and Kiowa Apache),
18. Response to Visiting Carlisle: Experiencing Intergenerational Trauma Warren Petoskey (Odawa and Lakota),
19. The Presence of Ghosts Maurice Kenny (Mohawk),
20. A Sacred Space Sharon O'Brien,
21. Carlisle: My Hometown Charles Fox,
22. The Ndé and Carlisle: Reflections on the Symposium Daniel Castro Romero Jr. (Ndé/Lipan Apache),
Epilogue N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa),
Selected Bibliography,
Published Resources for Researching the Carlisle Indian Industrial School,

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