Remembering the children who never came home

Carlisle: “Kill the Indian”

by Brenda Norrell: Photos for the families of the children who never came home. Carlisle Cemetery 2008 

Brenda Norrell

Censored News
CARLISLE, Penn. — Most American Indian children in US boarding schools were kidnapped, stolen from their parents.  At Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Native American children were part of the US experiment which became the prototype of the boarding schools that followed. Across the US, Indian children were forbidden to speak their language, which carried their songs and ceremonies. Their hair was cut in an attempt to cut the Indian-ness from them.
In boarding schools, children were routinely abused, beaten and sexually abused. Many were tortured and locked in cellars. Some were shot trying to escape. Many died of malnutrition and pneumonia. Others died of tuberculosis and genocide: Children with TB were housed with healthy children, producing the rampant spread of tuberculosis.
The young boys who survived were militarized, made into US soldiers. The Carlisle school eventually became an Army War College and finally the US Army Campus.
At Haskell, the unmarked graves in the marsh tell the rest of the story. Many of the children who died, or were murdered, were buried in unmarked graves without gravestones.
This pattern of genocide was repeated in Australia and Canada. In Canada, at the residential schools operated by churches, there is new evidence that children were raped and murdered.
Irene Favel, survivor of Muscowequan Catholic residential school in Lestock, Saskatchewan, describes seeing a newborn baby thrown alive into a furnace at that school by a priest in 1944. An Indian girl had been raped by a priest and given birth.
Carlisle was built on the premise of a prison.
At Carlisle, Richard H. Pratt designed the school, based on his experience at St. Augustine prison in Florida.
“Kill the Indian, and save the man,” Pratt said, stating his theory of education.
“The children arrived in Carlisle on October 6, 1879 and soon the assimilation began. The boys were dressed in military uniforms, the girls wore Victorian style dresses. Both male and female were forced to have their hair cut, which to the Lakota the cutting of the hair was symbolic of mourning.”
The tombstones tell the story, the children quickly began dying.
An unknown number died after returning home and a generation of American Indians suffered from childhoods of abuse, deprived of the love of their parents.
At Carlisle, there were 10,000 Indian children in the boarding school between 1879 and 1918. There are 186 graves that are marked with tombstones.
An unknown number of children were buried without markers.
In the cemetery, names remember the children of Carlisle

Fanny Charging Shield, Sioux, died March 7, 1892; Susia Nach Kea, Apache, died May 14, 1889; Godfrey Blatcha, Apache, died July 1890; Cooking Look, Alaskan, died Jan. 4, 1904; Alice Springer, Omaha, died Nov. 12, 1883; Henry Jones, Iowa, died March 20, 1880; Nannie Little Rose, Cheyenne; Albert Henderson; Giles Hands, died May, 1881, Cheyenne; Maul, daughter of Chief Swift Bear, Sioux, died Dec. 1880; Ernest, son of Chief White Thunder, Sioux, died Dec. 14, 1880; Isabel Kelcusay, Apache, died on Christmas day, Dec. 25, 1884; Pedro Saaehez, Apache, died in May of 1885; Frank Cushing, Pueblo, died July 22, 1881; William Sammers, Cheyenne, died May 21, 1888, Corine Simohtie, Apache, died Feb. 11, 1886; Sibyl Mapko, Apache; Kate Rosskidwitts, Witchita, died Jan. 10, 1882, John Bytzolay and all the others.

we remember them today and every day…Laramie

Carlisle Indian Industrial School

Photographs taken by John N. Choate. Pictured are Spotted Tail (Sioux), Iron Wing (Sioux), American Horse (Sioux), Red Shirt (Sioux), White Eagle (Ponca), Standing Buffalo (Ponca), Poor Wolf (Mandan), Son-of-the-Star (Arickaree), White Man (Apache), Stumbling Bear (Kiowa), Tso-de-ar-ko (Wichita), Big Horse (Cheyenne), Bob Tail (Cheyenne), Man-on-the-Cloud (Cheyenne), Mad Wolf (Cheyenne), Little Raven (Arapahoe), Yellow Bear (Arapahoe), Left Hand (Arapahoe), and Ouray (Ute).

Collection name: Carlisle Indian School

Original held by: Archives and Special Collections

Institution: Dickinson College

Location: Carlisle, PA

Contact us at:


The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was a formalized and well-structured institution that spent a half-day on academic classes and the other half learning various in trades. Classes included subjects such as English, math, history, drawing and composition. Carpentry, tinsmithing, blacksmithing were common trades for the boys, and cooking, sewing, laundry, baking, were common trades for the girls. Music was also a part of the program with many students who studying how to play instruments.

Gertrude Bonnin - Zitkala Sa

University of Virginia
Heard Exhibition
(LEFT) Zitkala Sa a.k.a. Gertrude Bonnin became a fierce critic of Carlisle after her time there.

Although the Carlisle Indian School taught the students the trades of “western culture,” many critics still disagreed with the structure and the aim of the Indian boarding schools at the time.

One of Carlisle’s harshest critics was Gertude Bonnin, (Zitkala-Sa), a famous Indian author and artist who once taught at the Carlisle Indian School. She believed that Indian students were capable of and should be exposed to higher learning and academic subjects, and should not be limited to vocational training. She also disapproved of the military discipline and Christian evangelizing the school imposed on its students. According to Zitkala-Sa, the boarding school system was a “miserable state of cultural dislocation,” that created problems long after the children returned home.

Pratt’s initial motives of educating the Indians might have been noble, but his methods could be quite harsh. Military style discipline was strictly enforced with regular drill practices and the children were expected to march to their classes, and from the classes, to the dining hall for meals. Beatings were a common form of punishment for students’ grieving behaviors, speaking their native languages, failure to understand English, or attempting to escape and violating the harsh military rules. According to Dr. Eulynda J. Toledo of the Boarding School Healing Project, children at Carlisle had their mouths washed with lye soap for speaking in any language other than English. If the children broke any rules their punishment was determined by an organized justice system of their peers.

Other forms of punishment included being set to hard labor and confinement to the guardhouse. Built in 1777 by Hessian prisoners during the Revolutionary War, the guardhouse contained four cells in which children were locked, sometimes for up to a week. It still stands as a haunting reminder of the school’s rigidity.

Class Room at Carlisle

Library of Congress
Students learning at the blackboard at Carlisle.

The children at the Carlisle Indian school had extremely difficult times adjusting to their new living conditions. The health of many Indian students was in peril after European contact due to the lack of natural immunity. Food was scarce and of poor quality. Illness and death among the children were common. Many of the children suffered from separation anxiety, smallpox and tuberculosis which at that time quickly resulted in death because of the lack of medical treatment. While most of the children were sent back to their reservations, hundreds of others passed away at the school. A hundred and ninety two children died and were buried in the school cemetery, a majority of whom were buried from the Apache tribe.

The Carlisle Industrial School did, however, provide many programs to benefit the Indian children. One particular program was the “Outing System” where students were sent out to different towns and live with white families to learn how they lived. Pratt referred to the “Outing System” as “The Supreme Americanizer.” It provided a means through which students could obtain special training in skilled occupations which eventually would lead to profitable employment. During the first summer of the school, Pratt found places at individual homes, including homes of Quaker families in eastern Pennsylvania and local businesses for twenty-four students. The students were paid for their services and the money earned was deposited in an interest-bearing bank account by the school, and then given to the student when he or she graduated. The second year, the program grew to 109 students. The Outing System succeeded in placing the Indian children closer to the culture they were to absorb and continued throughout the school’s thirty-nine years of existence.

Throughout Pratt’s twenty-five years of supervision, he often conflicted with government officials over his outspoken views on the need for Native Americans to become absorbed into Euro-American society. He was against the reservation concept and continued to fight with the Indian Bureau. Pratt was eventually relieved as Superintendent of the Carlisle Indian School in 1904 and soon his strict disciplinary ideals for the school were relaxed.


Top Photo: Olympian Jim Thorpe attended this institution


Witness Blanket: Carey Newman

A small collection of contributed material Master Carver Carey Newman used to create a large-scale six-foot tall and 30-feet wide red cedar installation titled Witness Blanket, designed using items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings and other traditional structures. ( Photo: CHAD HIPOLITO/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Master Carver Carey Newman holds a prototype 3×3 feet red cedar base that will be used as a template for Witness Blanket. (CHAD HIPOLITO/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Lac du Flambeau Boarding School: 1895-1932 Wisconsin

Location: Lac du Flambeau, WI

Years of Operation: 1895-1932

Brief History: The Lac du Flambeau Boarding School opened in 1895, with a capacity of 200 students. By 1899, there were 150 students and 5 staff members; prior to its closing in 1932, there were around 300 students. The original complex consisted of 18 structures along with a farm and forest. While most of the original buildings have been torn down, the boy’s dormitory has been in use almost continually, first as Bureau of Indian Affairs’ housing, then as a BIA office, a tribal government building and most recently, as a homeless shelter. The building was permanently closed in 1999. It is now being preserved to be developed into an interpretive center, an archival storage facility and a traditional skills learning center. Tribal elders who were interviewed about the old school were supportive of preserving the dorm as a symbol of survival through a harsh era.

The Lac du Flambeau Tribe’s Historic Preservation Officer, Kelly Jackson, received the first Secretary of the Interior Historic Preservation Award last year in part for her work on “Legacies of Survival,” the effort to restore the former boy’s dorm to its 1906 footprint.

Primary Sources: Tribal Historic Preservation Department,

Site Coordinator:

Kelly Jackson,

Contact number: 715-588-2270

Original School Site: 838 Whitefeather Lane

Lac du Flambeau, WI

Cruel Culture

zinn“When a mother is forced to choose between the child and the culture, there is something abhorrently cruel and unconsidered about that culture. A culture that requires harm to one’s soul in order to follow the cultures prescriptions is a very sick culture indeed. This ‘culture’ can be the one a woman lives in, but more damning yet, it can be the one she carries around and complies with within her own mind…..” — Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes


By Laramie

I do not blog here as often as I do at Lara Hentz on wordpress. I blog weekly but am on hiatus until May.

This blog you are reading is about my research.

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Healing the Legacy of the Boarding Schools 1879-2009

On May 16th 2009, White  Bison began a 40-day, 6800 mile cross-country journey to present and former Indian School sites.  It’s goal is to promote awareness, dialogue and forgiveness among Native peoples for the historical trauma of the Indian Boarding School Era which began in 1879.

Find out more about this journey.

Journey Dates and Sites

(Click on map or the links below for more information on the Journey sites – opens new window)
May 16th, 2009
Chemawa Indian School – Salem, OR
May 17th, 2009
Warm Springs Agency Boarding School – Warm Springs, OR
May 19th, 2009
Fort Hall Indian Boarding School – Fort Hall, ID
May 21st, 2009
St. Stephens High School – Riverton, WY
May 24th, 2009
Stewart Indian School – Carson City, NV
May 26th, 2009
Sherman Indian School – Riverside, CA
May 27th, 2009
Phoenix Indian School – Phoenix, AZ
May 31st, 2009
Albuquerque Indian School – Albuquerque, NM
June 2nd, 2009
Concho Indian School, El Reno, OK-Not a public event
June 3rd, 2009
Riverside Indian School – Anadarko, OK
June 4th, 2009
Sequoyah High School – Tahlequah, OK
June 5th, 2009
Haskell Indian Nations University – Lawrence, KS
June 6th, 2009
Genoa Indian Industrial School – Genoa, NE – Not a public event
June 8th, 2009
Rapid City, SD
June 9th, 2009
Morris Indian School – Morris, MN – Not a public event
June 10th, 2009
White Earth Indian School – White Earth, MN
June 11th, 2009
Red Lake Indian School – Red Lake, MN
June 12th, 2009
Leech Lake Indian School – Cass Lake, MN
June 14th, 2009
Lac du Flambeau Boarding School – Lac du Flambeau, WI
June 15th, 2009
Oneida Indian Boarding School – Oneida, WI
June 17th, 2009
Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial School – Mt. Pleasant, MI
June 19th, 2009
Thomas Indian School – Gowanda, NY
June 21st, 2009
Carlisle Indian School – Carlisle, PA
June 24th, 2009
National Museum of the American Indian – Washington, D.C


Indian Removals and Reservations

In the 19th century, the incessant westward expansion of the United States incrementally compelled large numbers of Native Americans to resettle further west, often by force, almost always reluctantly. Native Americans believed this forced relocation illegal, given the Hopewell Treaty of 1785. Under President Andrew Jackson, United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the President to conduct treaties to exchange Native American land east of the Mississippi River for lands west of the river.

As many as 100,000 Native Americans relocated to the West as a result of this Indian Removal policy. In theory, relocation was supposed to be voluntary and many Native Americans did remain in the East. In practice, great pressure was put on Native American leaders to sign removal treaties. The most egregious violation, the Trail of Tears, was removal of the Cherokee by President Jackson to Indian Territory.[78]

Native Americans and U.S. Citizenship

In 1817, the Cherokee became the first Native Americans recognized as U.S. citizens. Under Article 8 of the 1817 Cherokee treaty, “Upwards of 300 Cherokees (Heads of Families) in the honest simplicity of their souls, made an election to become American citizens”.[79][80]

Factors establishing citizenship included:

  1. Treaty provision (as with the Cherokee)
  2. Registration and land allotment under the Dawes Act of February 8, 1887
  3. Issuance of Patent in Fee simple
  4. Adopting Habits of Civilized Life
  5. Minor Children
  6. Citizenship by Birth
  7. Becoming Soldiers and Sailors in the U.S. Armed Forces
  8. Marriage to a U.S. citizen
  9. Special Act of Congress.

After the American Civil War, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 states, “that all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States”.[81]

Indian Appropriations Act of 1871

In 1871 Congress added a rider to the Indian Appropriations Act ending United States recognition of additional Native American tribes or independent nations, and prohibiting additional treaties.[82]

Education and Indian boarding schools

After the Indian wars in the late 19th century, the United States established Native American boarding schools, initially run primarily by or affiliated with Christian missionaries.[83] At this time American society thought that Native American children needed to be acculturated to the general society. The boarding school experience often proved traumatic to Native American children, who were forbidden to speak their native languages, taught Christianity and denied the right to practice their native religions, and in numerous other ways forced to abandon their Native American identities.[84][85][86]

Since the rise of self-determination for Native Americans, they have generally emphasized education of their children at schools near where they live. In addition, many federally recognized tribes have taken over operations of such schools and added programs of language retention and revival to strengthen their cultures. Beginning in the 1970s, tribes have also founded colleges at their reservations, controlled, and operated by Native Americans, to educate their young for jobs as well as to pass on their cultures.

American Indian Boarding Schools:

Non-reservation boarding schools

In 1634, Fr. Andrew White of the Society of Jesus established a mission in what is now the state of Maryland, and the purpose of the mission, stated through an interpreter to the chief of an Indian tribe there, was “to extend civilization and instruction to his ignorant race, and show them the way to heaven.”[7] The mission’s annual records report that by 1640, a community had been founded which they named St. Mary’s, and the Indians were sending their children there “to be educated among the English.”[8] This included the daughter of the Pascatoe Indian chief Tayac, which exemplifies not only a school for Indians, but either a school for girls, or an early co-ed school. The same records report that in 1677, “a school for humanities was opened by our Society in the centre of [Maryland], directed by two of the Fathers; and the native youth, applying themselves assiduously to study, made good progress. Maryland and the recently established school sent two boys to St. Omer who yielded in abilities to few Europeans, when competing for the honour of being first in their class. So that not gold, nor silver, nor the other products of the earth alone, but men also are gathered from thence to bring those regions, which foreigners have unjustly called ferocious, to a higher state of virtue and cultivation.”[9]

Harvard College had an Indian College on its campus in the mid-1600s, supported by the English Society for Propagation of the Gospel. Its few Indian students came from New England, at a time when higher education was very limited for all classes and colleges were more similar to today’s high schools. In 1665, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, “from the Wampanoag…did graduate from Harvard, the first Indian to do so in the colonial period”.[10] In early years, other Indian schools were created by local communities, as with the Indian school in Hanover, New Hampshire in 1769, which gradually developed into Dartmouth College. Other schools were created in the East, where Indian reservations were less common than they became in the late nineteenth century in western states.

Chiricahua Apaches Four Months After Arriving at Carlisle. Undated photograph taken at Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

West of the Mississippi, schools near Indian settlements and on reservations were first founded by religious missionaries, who believed they could extend education and Christianity to Native Americans. Some of their efforts were part of the progressive movement after the Civil War. As Native Americans were forced onto reservations following the Indian Wars, missionaries founded additional schools with boarding facilities, to accommodate students who lived too far to attend on a daily basis.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School, founded by the US Army officer Richard Henry Pratt in 1879 at a former military installation, became a model for others established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Pratt said in a speech in 1892, “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”[11] Pratt professed “assimilation through total immersion.”[11] He conducted a “social experiment” on Apache prisoners of war at a fort in Florida.[12] He cut their long hair, put them in uniforms, forced them to learn English, and subjected them to strict military protocols.[12] He had arranged for the education of some of the young Indian men at the Hampton Institute, a historically black college, after he had supervised them as prisoners at a fort in Florida.

At the prison, he made efforts to have the Indians taught English and United States culture, while giving them leeway to govern themselves. From seeing the progress of both his younger prisoners and the ones who attended Hampton, he came to believe that removing Indians from their native culture could result in their successful assimilation into the majority culture of the United States. As at the Hampton Institute, he included in the Carlisle curriculum vocational training for boys and domestic science for girls, including chores around the school and producing goods for market. They also produced a newspaper, had a well-regarded chorus and orchestra, and developed sports programs. The vocational training reflected the administration’s understanding of skills needed at most reservations, which were located in rural areas, and reflected a society still based on agriculture. In the summer, students often lived with local farm families and townspeople to continue their immersion in European-American culture, and provide labor at low cost to the families. Carlisle and its curriculum became the model for the Bureau of Indian Affairs; by 1902 there were 25 federally funded non-reservation schools in 15 states and territories, with a total enrollment of over 6,000 students. Federal legislation required Native American children to be educated. Parents had to authorize their children’s attendance at boarding schools, but sometimes officials used coercion to gain a quota of students from any given reservation.[13]

As the model of boarding schools was adopted more widely by the US government, many Native American children were separated from their families and tribes when they were sent or sometimes taken to boarding schools far from their home reservations. These schools ranged from those similar to the federal Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which became a model for BIA-run schools; to the many schools sponsored by religious denominations.

In that period, when students arrived at the boarding schools, their lives usually altered dramatically. They were given short haircuts (a source of shame for boys of many tribes), uniforms, and English names; sometimes these were based on their own, other times they were assigned at random, and sometimes children chose new names. They were not allowed to speak their own languages, even between each other, and they were expected to attend church services and encouraged to convert to Christianity. Discipline was stiff in many schools (as it was in families and other areas of society), and it often included chores and punishments.[12]

The following is a quote from Anna Moore regarding the Phoenix Indian School:

If we were not finished [scrubbing the dining room floors] when the 8 a.m. whistle sounded, the dining room matron would go around strapping us while we were still on our hands and knees.[14]

The 1928 Meriam Report noted that infectious disease was often widespread at the schools due to insufficient funding for meals providing good nutrition, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions (an element shared by many towns in the early 20th century) and students weakened by overwork. The report said that death rates for Native American students were six and a half times higher than for other ethnic groups.[14]

Back to the Future: Hopi Farming

Back to the Future: Restoring Traditional Hopi Farm Plots and Helping Elders

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) wants to eliminate food insecurity among senior citizens in Native American communities, and we are joined in that effort by AARP Foundation.  With foundation funding, we were able to award four grants to Native American communities this past summer in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma that will help address the issue. It’s part of our Native American Food Security project which, in turn, is part of our larger Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI).

One of those grant recipients is Sipaulovi Development Corporation in Arizona. Sipaulovi is a self-governing Hopi village founded in the early 1700s on Second Mesa. Of the 900 village residents, 28% are elders over 55, while 40% are youth up to age 18.

With its $25,000 grant, Sipaulovi is working to ensure elder food security by reclaiming locally controlled food systems based on traditional knowledge, contemporary practices, and coming together for the common good. Activities focus on restoring seed and water sources, reviving community farming and gardening, and growing, processing and sharing food in the traditional manner.

The gardens will be a reliable source of healthy food for elders, who have restored and revived traditional farm plots and are working to engage community members in farming and reviving traditional farming practices while providing foods for families and individuals.

Besides the grant funding, First Nations has also provided technical assistance to Sipaulovi.  In July 2012, we provided training on program evaluation, food policy and food assessment.  We did this in association with other NAFSI grantees so Sipaulovi and the others could benefit by networking with each other.

Other $25,000 food-security grants went to Santo Domingo Pueblo and Pueblo of Nambé, both in New Mexico, and to the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma.

The Native American Food Security project assists Native American tribes or organizations working to eliminate food insecurity among senior populations. National statistics document that Native Americans continue to experience high rates of poverty, contributing to significant food insecurity in many Native American communities. According to the most recent American Community Survey, about 26% of American Indians live at or below the poverty line. The same survey indicates that roughly 12% of all Native Americans living in poverty are age 55 and older. Other studies conducted by the National Resource Center on Native American Aging note that Native American seniors suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes and other negative health indicators when compared to other senior groups in the United States.

First Nations’ work in food systems is at the intersection between food systems/food security and economic development. We support tribes and Native communities as they strengthen food systems in their communities, improve health and nutrition and build food security. First Nations increases the control over Native agriculture and food systems by providing financial and technical support, including training materials, to projects that address the agriculture and food sectors in Native communities.

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Early Encounters in North America

I want to read this one!

Early Encounters in North America: Peoples, Cultures and the Environment
Alexander Street Press;

Early Encounters (EENA) gathers published and unpublished personal accounts of traders, slaves, missionaries, explorers, soldiers, Native peoples, and officials. The database focuses on descriptions of the natural features of North America as well as the interactions among various culture groups, with coverage from 1534 to 1850.  EENA contains information on 1,482 authors and provides more than 100,000 pages of narratives, diaries, journals, images, maps, and letters that “document the first impressions of North America by Europeans and of Europeans by native people.”  A sampling of source texts includes accounts of early explorations of the colonies at Roanoke and Plymouth; collected accounts of the Americas published in Europe by de Bry; the original journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition; and studies on the distinct cultures of California; accounts by the Apache, Yuma, and Navaho; and information on the natural and cultural impact of the California Gold Rush.

EENA includes more than 1200 quality color images, including many works by George Catlin and John James Audubon. These are indexed independently and are searchable by date, author, and numerous other identifiers and are viewable when browsing the electronic versions of whole books. The database is available either through annual subscription or as a one-time purchase of perpetual rights.