U.S. ARMY SET TO RAZE INDIAN SCHOOL LANDMARK OVER DESCENDANTS’ OBJECTIONS
AUGUST 12, 2012 (Carlisle, PA): Despite an outpouring of pleas from descendants and relatives of students who attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the U.S. Army War College has reaffirmed its plans to raze one of the last standing and culturally significant structures remaining from the legendary boarding school in August or September of this year. The structure is an original farmhouse used by the school to train in farming techniques and to help prepare students for farm work as part of Carlisle's unique "Outing Program." The building housed students as well as served as a classroom for agricultural courses.Demolition is moving forward over the strenuous objections of descendants due to the farmhouse not being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lack of inclusion is justified by a 1985 Historic Survey that erroneously states that the farmhouse and outbuildings had served the Indian Industrial School only in a “peripheral way.” This justification has not been revised or revisited, despite extensive subsequent research that identifies the farmhouse as a location for student housing and classes and its numerous inclusions in various school publications. Barbara Frederick, Historic Preservation Supervisor for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, states that “the project requires no further consultation with our office under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act."
The ones who never came home
Photo by Brenda Norrell
For the relatives
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was the first all-Indian off-reservation government-run boarding school where thousands of Native children were sent to be civilized in order to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”CIIS and its models had a devastating effect on the lives, cultures, and languages of these children, their families and descendants. Many CIIS students participated in the summer Outing Program, where they would learn the skills of white society while forced to give up their traditional ways of life. Some students were sent to nearby farms to work and received their training at the CIIS farm and stayed at the historic farmhouse. Despite the historical significance of the school to both Native culture and American history, which is reflected in its designation as a National Historic Landmark and acknowledged with a state historical marker, this is not the first time tensions between the historical significance and the exigent needs of the U.S. Army War College have resulted in a devastating loss for descendants, most notably moving original graves of the 186 students who died at the school to a new cemetery to make way for an entrance road. The decision to raze the farmhouse by Carlisle Barracks Command, as stated by Ty McPhillips, Project Director for Balfour Beatty Communities, is “[a]fter a review with the Installation and in addressing their Master Planning needs for a new War College etc, it was again reaffirmed that the Farm House needed to be razed so the space could be used for RCI housing effort. There was no other location to place/site the 4 new homes slated for that area. ” No mention of the house’s use in the Carlisle Indian Industrial School or its significance to American Indians’cultural memory was made.Carlisle is a major site of memory for many American Indians and will serve as the host site for a nationwide symposium on October 5thand 6th, titled Carlisle, PA: Site of Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamations. Descendants have requested that plans for demolition at least be postponed until after this national gathering in order to give descendants and relatives a chance to visit the structure and have their objections heard. The U.S. Army War College has not responded to this request and descendants have created a petition, available athttps://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/u-s-department-of-the-army-carlisle-barracks-stop-the-demolition-of-the-historic-ciis-farmhouse, to gather signatures in further effort to stop the demolition of this historic structure.
More information on the history of the farmhouse and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School can be found by visiting:
Farmhouse History - documented by Carolyn Tolman
The Sentinel news story
Carlisle Indian Industrial School - by historian Barbara Landis
Farmhouse photo: This photo was part of an 1895 souvenir book created by John Leslie, an Indian student and the “right hand man” of John Choate, a well-known photographer at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. It is the earliest known photo of the Farmhouse.
Courtesy of the Cumberland County Historical Society