Discover the controversial legacy of the Indian School. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the US Government encouraged the establishment of so-called Industrial Schools designed to "civilize" Native American children and prepare them for careers outside the reservations and within white society. Today the legacy of these schools remains controversial: did they provide children with useful skills, or were they a form of ethnic cleansing that robbed them of their culture , self identity, and heritage? The Carlisle Indian Industrial School is probably best known for being the home of internationally renowned athlete Jim Thorpe, but it is also part of the family history of many Native Americans today whose ancestors attended the Pennsylvania school. Dickinson College maintains this digital archive of student records, images and special collections for use by relatives of former students and by scholars doing research on the legacy of the Indian Industrial Schools. Search by student name, by nation, or within collections of school publications and other documents. The archive is an ongoing project and will continue to grow.
tag(s): colonial america (106), cross cultural understanding (150), history day (22), identity (21), native americans (86), westward expansion (35)
In the Classroom
Too often US history survey classes broadly consider Native Americans and their role in the original colonization of North America, or their role in Westward Expansion, without taking the time to understand the differences among nations, or the impact of European settlement on these pre-existing societies. Even if there isn't time for in depth study, consider asking students to study the individual record of one young man or woman approximately their own age who attended the Carlisle Indian School. How old was he when he left home? What skill was she trained in? What happened to him after he left Carlisle? Have students use Fakebook, reviewed here, to create a "fake" page similar in style to Facebook about the individual they researched. This personal contact with the real life of another student from another time and another culture will reduce the tendency to stereotype Native Americans as they so often are during the study of US History. Of course, the site is also a wonderful resource for in depth research such as a National History Day project. Were the identities of these people stolen? Use the resources Analyzing Before and After Photographs... and the Telling Lives: The Lost Ones Documentary Film to discuss identity and whether or not that was taken from these students.