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Manuscript Group 216
CARLISLE INDIAN SCHOOL COLLECTION
1878-1969
1.5 cu. ft.


After witnessing the U.S. military's problems with Native Americans, Lt. Richard Henry Pratt envisioned a school where teachers could immerse Native Americans into American culture, forgetting about their tribal pasts in the process. Pratt gained support from the U.S. Department of Interior's Indian Office and founded the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In existence from 1879 to 1918, the Carlisle Indian School educated hundreds of Native American children and assimilated them into American culture. Forbidden to speak their native tongue, wear their native clothing, or keep their long hair, Native American children learned trades and received formal education for at least two years. When school was not in session, students lived with local families to further engage in American culture. This Outing System prevented children from returning to their homes and reinitiating themselves with Native American culture. The school did successfully assimilate many of its students, who later became famous, especially as athletes.

The U.S. Congress, though at first cautious about Indian Schools, decided to support Pratt's system. Throughout the United States, more Indian schools were founded, modeled after the Carlisle Indian School. At the turn of the 20th century, Indian school enrollments peaked across the country - the Carlisle Indian School housed 1,000 students from about 70 tribes. By the end of World War I, however, the Carlisle Indian School no longer proved a success. With Native Americans showing patriotism by joining the American military and Native American children receiving education on the reservations, the War Department decided to close some of the Indian schools, including the one in Carlisle.

The collection contains various pamphlets, letters, photographs, and reports describing the function of life at the Carlisle Indian School. The Annual Report for 1910 details expenses made for the year up to June 30, 1910. The Indian Helper, a weekly letter published at the Carlisle Indian School, included information about what was going on at the School. In the March 4, 1898 issue, the 1898 commencement exercises are discussed, as well as a brief overview of the School, and the proper ways to treat an Indian. The collection also contains a letter from 19 year old Joshua Given, a Native American pupil of the School, to W.D. Blackburn on August 28, 1880 describing the non-civilized manner of Native Americans and the benefit of the Indian School to Native American children. The 1906 commencement program and the 1912 program honoring Carlisle's Olympic heroes show how important academics and athletics were to the School. The 1912 catalogue, similar to a college catalogue of today, examines courses, housing, activities, and responsibilities while attending the School. Various photographs from 1878-1903 depict life at the school. The three publications represented in the collection discuss three important aspects of the School - the founding, the Outing System, and Jim Thorpe, the Carlisle Indian School's most well known pupil.



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