Plans for cultural genocide as well as the stories of courage and oppression at the famous/infamous residential Carlisle Indian Industrial School appear in an unprecedented collection of essays, poems and photos entitled “Carlisle Indian Industrial School/Indigenous Histories, Memories and Reclamations,” recently published by University of Nebraska Press and edited by Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose.
This compelling gathering of work examines the legacy of the Carlisle experience through verse by noted poets N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa) and Maurice Kenney (Mohawk) along with essays by distinguished historians and scholars such as Fear-Segal, Rose, Barbara Landis and Louellyn White (Mohawk). It also includes the recollections and reflections of some descendants of the more than 10,000 Native children who attended the school between 1879 and 1918.
The book is divided into six parts—1) A Sacred and Storied Space; 2) Student Lives and Losses; 3) Carlisle Indian School Cemetery; 4) Reclamations; 5) Revisioning the Past; and 6) Reflections and Responses—and provides a panoramic view of the experience, including many poignant and heartbreaking stories.
The anthology starts out with a comprehensive introduction to the school, the historical context of Manifest Destiny, Native dispossession and a compelling re-imagining of how the Native children must have felt after being seized and sent far away to be forcibly “assimilated” into white culture. The removal of children, in effect the tearing apart of families and communities, was part of the attempt to “Kill the Indian, and save the man,” a seminal quote from the school’s founder and superintendent, Richard Henry Pratt who sought to change the children, beginning with their names.
One of the many themes in the book involves names, the white names given to Native children and the names on tombstones in the school’s cemetery.
“Names are especially important in Native American culture,” Momaday wrote in “The Stones at Carlisle.” “Names and being are thought to be indivisible. One who bears no name cannot truly be said to exist, for one has being in his name… In this context we see how serious is the loss of one’s name. In the case of the tombstones at Carlisle we are talking about the crime of neglect and negation. We are talking not only about the theft of identity, but the theft of essential being.”
The full article is at ICTMN. This goes right to the top of my reading list. The book is available from the University of Nebraska Press, and an excerpt can be read here.
I recently read an article about the 60s Scoop at the CBC, then there’s the new Wenjack-Downie project “Secret Path” and now this… I think the world is out to make me cry.
Ice Swimmer says
Even the table of contents of the book held a serious message. When a school has a cemetery for the young students, I feel something isn’t right, even in the time before antibiotics and vaccinations.
No, it isn’t right. It was just late last year and this year that many of the people buried at Carlisle were repatriated to their families and actual homelands. The ones who could be identified, that is. Carlisle was a nightmare beyond imagining, and it spawned many other “schools” just like it. They were very serious about that kill the Indian, save the man business.
Not wanting to Godwin anything, but I have read somewhere, sometime, that Hitler got the idea of concentration camps for Jews and Gypsies, and assimilation of slavic children that were considered “aryan looking” from how US has treated Indians.
The more I learn about it, the more plausible I find this.
Oh, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. The U.S. army and feds may not have had industrial people ovens, but these schools were much more akin to concentration camps than schools. Priests were commonly brought in as teachers, and got whole schools full of vulnerable children to rape, along with beating religion into them.
chigau (違う) says
@chigau Thanks for refreshing my memory, that might be it. I have been calling the treatment of Indians in USA a genocide on par with holocaust since my twenties, but I a possible causal link has been brought to my attention relatively recently and therefore probably on pharyngula, since that is where I start most of my reading.