Carlisle Indian Industrial School

Carlisle Indian Industrial School

Infobox_nrhp | name =Carlisle Indian School
nrhp_type =nhl

caption = Native American pupils at Carlisle Indian School, c. 1900.
location= Carlisle, Pennsylvania
locmapin = Pennsylvania
area =
built =1879
architect= Unknown
architecture= Colonial Revival
designated= July 4, 1961cite web|url= |title=Carlisle Indian School |accessdate=2008-07-02|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service]
added = October 15, 1966
governing_body = United States Army
refnum=66000658cite web|url=|title=National Register Information System|accessdate=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]

Carlisle Indian Industrial School, (1879 - 1918), was an Indian Boarding School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1879 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt at a disused barracks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The so-called “noble experiment” was a failed attempt to forcibly assimilate Native American children into the culture of the United States. The United States Army War College now occupies the site of the former school.


Richard Pratt was an enlisted man and then an officer in the Civil War. After the war, Lt. Pratt was an officer with the Buffalo Soldier’s 10th Cavalry Regiment, in the southern plains of the United States. One of Pratt's jobs was to command the Native Americans who were enlisted Scouts for the 10th Cavalry. In 1875, Pratt took a small group of 72 Indian prisoners, who had been rounded up from the Indian Territory at the close of the Red River War, to Fort Marion, an old Spanish fort in Florida. At Fort Marion, Pratt devoted himself to educating his captives in American business, language, religion, and customs as a form of cultural assimilation. When the prisoners were released in 1878, most went to various locations on the East Coast, including the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute for Negroes (now Hampton University). Based on the apparent success of the programs, Pratt and others thought his techniques could be applied to others, especially children. United States Senator Pendleton, whose wife had befriended one of the prisoners, pushed a bill through congress to establish the school.cite web|url=|publisher=Oklahoma State|title=From Warrior to Saint: The life of David Pendelton Oakerhater|author=K.B. Kueteman]

Pratt’s founding principle for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School was to “Kill the Indian and save the man.” "Pratt saw his education program with the Native Americans as analogous to his domestication of wild turkeys". [(Fear-Segal 329)] Apparently, he took a nest of wild turkey eggs to be mothered by his barnyard hen, and they became as assimilated as his best domesticated turkeys. They only needed, in Pratt's words, "“the environment and kind treatment of domestic civilized life to become a very part of it". [(Fear-Segal 329)] Pratt believed that the Native Americans should be totally uprooted from their tribal past in order to "“achieve full participation.”" In practice, this meant erasing, as much as possible, any trace of Native American customs, culture, language and religion from the children at the school.

tudent recruitment

At first Pratt convinced tribal elders and Chiefs that the reason the "washichu" (Lakota word for white man) were able to take their land is because they were uneducated. He told them had they been able to speak and write the white man's language that they may have been able to protect themselves. Many of the first children to be sent to Carlisle were sent by the families voluntarily. Descendants of Spotted Tail and Red Cloud were among the first sent.

Parents were often coerced – or outright forced – to send their children to schools like Carlisle. Indian Affairs Commissioner Thomas Jefferson Morgan explained:"I would...use the Indian police if necessary. I would withhold from [the Indian adults] rations and supplies...and when every other means was exhausted...I would send a troop of United States soldiers...” [ [ Oyate - Avoid My Heart Is On the Ground ] ]

"None of us wanted to go and our parents didn't want to let us go....I remember looking back at Na-tah-ki and she was crying too....Once there our belongings were taken from us, even the little medicine bags our mothers had given to us to protect us from harm. Everything was placed in a heap and set afire. Next was the long hair, the pride of all the Indians. The boys, one by one, would break down and cry when they saw their braids thrown on the floor. All of the buckskin clothes had to go and we had to put on the clothes of the White Man.” [Lone Wolf, Blackfoot]

To save their children from capture, some parents taught their children a hiding “game” to be used when Indian Affairs officers arrived. The Hopi nation surrendered groups of their men to prison sentences in Alcatraz rather than send their children to the schools. [ [ Oyate - Avoid My Heart Is On the Ground ] ]


Hundreds of children died at Carlisle. [ [ Carlisle Indian School - ] ] While some died from diseases foreign to Native American’s immune systems (tuberculosis, pneumonia, smallpox, etc.) others died while attempting to escape from the school or from physical, emotional and sexual abuse or malnutrition. Beatings were a common form of punishment for grieving, speaking their native languages, not understanding English, attempting to escape and violations of harsh military rules. Other forms of punishment included confinement and being forced to eat lye soap.

"(O)ne of the boys said something in Indian to another boy. The man in charge of us pounced on the boy, caught him by the shirt, and threw him across the room. Later we found out that his collar-bone was broken.” [Lone Wolf, Blackfoot]

The children who arrived at Carlisle able to speak some English were presented to the other children as “translators”. The authorities at the School, however, used these children’s traditional respect for elders to turn them into informants, used to catch other children’s misbehaviors.

Part of the culture the School sought to destroy was reflected in the children’s names. While traditional Native American names reflected relationships and life experiences, the new names were assigned randomly from a list of “acceptable” names.

"The boys and girls at Carlisle Indian School were trained to be cannon fodder in American wars, to serve as domestics and farm hands, and to leave off all ideas or beliefs that came to them from their Native communities, including and particularly their belief that they were entitled to land, life, liberty, and dignity....separated from all that is familiar; stripped, shorn, robbed of their very self; renamed." [Paula Gunn Allen, Laguna/Sioux, 1994.]


By the time the “noble experiment” at Carlisle ended, over 10,000 children had been through the school. Less than 8% graduated while well over twice that many ran away.

Pratt experienced conflict with government officials over his outspoken views on the need for Native Americans to assimilate. This led to Pratt's forced retirement as superintendent of the Carlisle School on June 30, 1904. After Pratt was forced the school became popular for football, sports, there outing, and there trade industries.

American football

Today, the School is most widely remembered for its star American football player, Jim Thorpe and their team the Carlisle Indians, coached by Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner. The Carlisle Indians also have the best winning percentage (.647) of any defunct college football team.

The April 23, 2007, issue of "Sports Illustrated" included an excerpt from a new book about the Carlisle Indians, by Sally Jenkins, characterizing them as "The Team that Invented Football," due to the innovations introduced by Warner, which turned the team into a national football power and opened up the game's offensive strategy significantly.

In film

*Carlisle was depicted in the 1951 movie classic "Jim Thorpe." Thorpe thrived under the football tutelage of equally legendary football coach Glenn S. "Pop" Warner.
* Part of the 2005 mini-series on Turner Network Television, "Into the West", takes place at the school.
* The PBS documentary "In the White Man's Image" (1992) tells the story of Richard Pratt and the founding of the Carlisle School. It was directed by Christine Lesiak, and part of the series "The American Experience." [ [ American Experience ] ]

ee also

* Indian boarding school
* Zitkala-Sa
* Cultural Genocide


*cite book | author=Fear-Segal, Jacqueline | title="Nineteenth-Century Indian Education: Universalism Versus Evolutionism," in "Journal of American Studies", 33(1999), 2, 323-341
*cite book | author=Pratt, Richard Henry | title=Battlefield and classroom : four decades with the American Indian, 1867-1904 | location=Norman | publisher=University of Oklahoma Press | year=2004 | id=ISBN 0-8061-3603-0
*cite book | author=Witmer, Linda F. | title=The Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1879-1918 | location=Carlisle, Pa. | publisher=Cumberland County Historical Society | year=1993 | id=ISBN 0-9638923-0-4
*cite book | author=Pratt, Richard Henry | title=How to deal with the Indians: the potency of environment | location=Washington, D.C. | publisher=Library of Congress Photoduplication Service | year=1983 | id=
*cite book | author=Eastman, Alaine Goodale | title=Pratt, the Red Man's Moses | location=Norman | publisher=University of Oklahoma Press | year=1935 | id=LCCN 35021899
*cite book | author=Pratt, Richard Henry | title=The Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania : its origins, purposes, progress, and the difficulties surmounted | location=Carlisle, Pa. | publisher=Cumberland County Historical Society | year=1979 | id=
*Richard Henry Pratt Papers. Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
*cite book | author=Adams, David Wallace | title=Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience 1875 - 1928, | publisher=University of Kansas Press | year=1997 | id=ISBN 978-0700608386
*cite book | author=Anderson, Lars | title=Carlisle vs. Army: Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football's Greatest Battle | publisher=Random House | year=2007 | id=ISBN 978-1400066001

External links

* [ Carlisle Indian School Research Pages]
* [ "In the white man's image", The American Experience, a production of the Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium and the Nebraska Educational Television Network for The American experience ; produced and written by Christine Lesiak; United States : WETA-TV, February 17, 1992.]
* [ Cumberland County Historical Society]
* [ Richard Henry Pratt Papers. Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.]
* [ 2007 Newsweek article about Carlisle]
* [ "Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs" (2008) ISBN 978-0-9774486-7-8 softcover relates the life stories of 50 Carlisle Indian School football players]

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