Carlisle Industrial Boarding School Essay, Research Paper
In a small town called Carlisle, Pennsylvania, lies a defunct boarding school with an endless amount of history. The school was called the Carlisle Industrial Boarding School reflecting the name of the town in which it was built. It was the first Boarding School established by the government for the Native American under the age of 18. Its main purpose was to teach Native Americans the white man s way . The Carlisle school s destruction of its students left a scar on Native American culture that has never fully healed. The Native American students were beaten, embarrassed, and many died of illnesses or heartbreak, but still the school prospered. Yet, this school that created complex problems for an entire culture, began with simple ideas from one man named Captain Richard Pratt.
Captain Pratt was a vital ingredient in the making of the Carlisle School. All Native Americans, in Pratt s eyes, were savages. He wanted to strip them of their culture and teach them to live like white people. He thought the sooner they forgot their heritage the better off they would be. Captain Pratt was often quoted as saying, Kill the Indian, save the man. His goal was to turn everything but the Native Americans skin white by destroying all the Native American life inside the students. His inspiration to start the school began when he captured seventy-two Native American captives. He treated them as if they were in a military and expected them to polish shoes, clean, cook, and do everything else a servant was suppose to do. He trained them until they became model prisoners and there started the real motivation for the school. Pratt decided to educate young Native Americans in the skills of servanthood and white culture. Pratt was helped by the BIA, Bureau of Indian Affairs, in the building of the Carlisle School. They believed that separating students from their cultures would ensure that the children learned and adapted white values. So in 1879, Pratt persuaded the British Army, which owned a enormous amount of property in Carlisle, to give him 23 acres consisting of barracks, stables, a hospital, dining room, coal house, and guard house. Without Captain Pratt, the Carlisle School would have never made its mark on the long timeline of U.S. history.
When the Carlisle School started, it was a dramatic and sorrowful time for the Native American culture. Many Native American parents refused to send their young away, some even fled to the mountains. However, the police chased them and seized the children against their will. They were often stuck in cages in the back of some kind of wagon, and shipped hundreds of miles away from the place they called home. However, in rare instances, some children were excited to go because they wanted to explore the mysterious and thrilling East. All the students entered the school with leggings, blankets, moccasins, and other traditional clothing. The minute they got there, they were given trousers, dresses, and shoes that they were not familiar with. Their old clothes and everything else the parents packed, such as food and mementos from home, were set afire. All their memories from home were demolished. When they entered the classroom the teacher would guess their age, set their birthday, and give them a Christian name. Also, their hair was cut, which was a sign of mourning and anguish in many Native American cultures. However, to keep this sacrilege hidden, the barbers were kept a secret to all parents. Overall, the first days at the school were dispirited and woeful for all the students.
The rest of their years at the school were lengthy and exhausting. Half of each day was filled with all academic subjects. No students were allowed to speak their native tongue at the Carlisle School and they were taught English. Their English book was called First Lessons for the Deaf and the Dumb. The students were also required to take arithmetic and some non-academic classes, like cooking. The teachers who taught all these studies thought they were solving the Indian problem , but in fact they were just perpetuating it. The primary lesson taught at the Carlisle School was that the white man s way was superior to the rest. This gave young Native American students a very negative impression of their culture.
The other half of the day was spent doing required labor. These jobs made a school staff almost unnecessary because they were jobs that staff usually covered. The boys ran the 300-acre farm, cared for the animals, plowed, planted, and harvested crops. They also helped construct the buildings used during the school hours. The girls were taught to cook, clean, iron, can foods, wait tables, scrub floors, and wash windows. They also did the laundry and sewing for the whole school, as well as working in the hospital. If they did not work they would be punished severely. Teachers used shame and embarrassment when someone broke a small rule. When students really disobeyed, they would be beaten or locked in a closet for days. Although the BIA forbid punishment, they were ignored. The Carlisle School used discipline to enforce the promptness, accuracy, and obedience, which the Native Americans supposedly lacked. Parents were furious when they heard their children were being beaten because that was against their culture. The Carlisle School traumatized all the Native American students and brought them farther and farther away from their culture everyday.
The students of the Carlisle School reacted to their education in more bad ways than good. The school was a shocking experience for students because everything was different. They had to adapt to the strange people, such as their teachers, whose personalities and views of the world were much different then the students had ever encountered. They also had to get used to the different foods. Some students refused to eat, and many were vulnerable to diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza, and small pox. Many died from these diseases and/or the simple condition of a broken heart. Another fraction tried to run away or kill themselves. The school even had their own cemeteries because the number of deaths was so abundant. Even if they were lucky enough to make it out in reasonable shape, sometimes their tribe didn t accept them back. This was the case for a young man named Black Elk. He was at the Carlisle School for seven years. There, he was taught that Native Americans, his own people and culture, were bad and wrong. By the time he went back to visit his family he forgot his native language. He did not belong at home and he was not welcome in the white man s world either. Even though some students went on to be successful after graduating, they were a minority compared to all those who didn t.
In 1918 the Carlisle School closed it doors to brutal punishment. With all the attempts to make the Native American children good students, slaves, and white men , the only result was the disintegration of a culture. The damage was never fully recovered. Although the Carlisle School closed, many other boarding schools still succeeded up until the twentieth century such as the Red Cloud Indian School located in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. In fact, some schools are still around today like the Theodore Roosevelt School, located in Arizona. Even though some of these schools weren t as torturous as the Carlisle School, they all emphasized the study of Western academics and English. Not only did the schools atomize the lives of many Native Americans but it also showed how ignorant and unaware the white men were. The reality that the Carlisle School existed on American soil in the twentieth century should make one question how free this country really is for all people.