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May 9, 2017

70 Rare Vintage Photographs Capture Everyday Life at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the Early 1900s

"In Indian civilization, I am a Baptist, because I believe in immersing the Indians in our civilization and when we get them under, holding them there until they are thoroughly soaked" - Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle School.
Carlisle Indian Industrial School was the flagship Indian boarding school in the United States from 1879 through 1918. Founded in 1879 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt under authority of the US federal government, Carlisle was the first federally funded off-reservation Indian boarding school. It was founded on the principle that Native Americans were the equals of European-Americans, and that Native American children immersed in mainstream Euro-American culture would learn skills to advance in society. In this period, many people believed that Amerindians, a population that was numerically declining, were a vanishing race whose only hope for survival was rapid assimilation to American culture.

After witnessing the initial success of the Indian students at Hampton Normal and Agricultural School, General Richard Henry Pratt decided to establish the first all Indian school, Carlisle, in 1879. Carlisle was built out of a former military barracks. Like Hampton, upon arrival at Carlisle students’ hair were cut and names were changed. However, "[u]nlike Hampton, whose purpose was to return assimilated educated Indians to their people, Carlisle meant to turn the school into the ultimate Americanizer". At Carlisle, Pratt attempted to "Kill the Indian: Save the Man"  through any means necessary. Beyond a typical military regimen, Pratt was known to use corporal punishment on students who exhibited Native behaviors to help students become only dependent on themselves.

Carlisle became the model for 26 Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools in 15 states and territories, and hundreds of private boarding schools sponsored by religious denominations. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. From 1879 until 1918, over 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended Carlisle; however, according to one source, only 158 students graduated. Tribes with the largest number of students included the Lakota, Ojibwe, Seneca, Oneida, Cherokee, Apache, Cheyenne, and Alaska Native. The Carlisle Indian School exemplified Progressive Era values. Some Native Americans believed Carlisle provided an excellent education.

Carlisle and similar schools have been controversial because many Native Americans say that these forced children to leave their families at young ages, and to give up their own cultures, languages, religion and even their names, doing psychological damage to generations. Since the 1970s, Native American nations have taken back control of the education of their children and started their own schools and colleges.


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