Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 31, 2012



By Louellyn White
Spokesperson for the Coalition of CIS Descendants, Relatives, and Friends

Remembering the children who never
came home: Carlisle cemetery
Photo Brenda Norrell
AUGUST 29, 2012 (Carlisle, PA):

CARLISLE, Penn. -- Despite an outpouring of pleas from descendants and relatives of students who attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, including a petition with over 600 supporters, the U.S. Army Garrison Carlisle Barracks, home of the prestigious 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 September or October of this year. Preparation for demolition has already begun with the drilling of holes inside the building.

Joanne Shenandoah (Wolf Clan), Grammy Award-winning Oneida singer, composer and actress gave the following statement: “ Many Iroquois young people were brought toCarlisle and the influence of this era is still felt today. Of course, we all know about the legendary Jim Thorpe. Carlisle also was the place where the Pan Indian Movement was born.  It brought many Native nations together and this is where they began to defend their rights. I feel that this important part of our history [theCarlisle farmhouse] should be told and kept intact for future generations.”

Lt. Col. William G. McDonough III, Garrison Commander of Carlisle Barracks asserted, “The farmhouse is one of dozens of buildings to be demolished and replaced with modern family housing… [they] have structural, foundation, plumbing, and electrical issues… [and] are scheduled for demolition in the coming months.” In response to McDonough, a coalition of Carlisle Indian School Descendants, Relatives and Friends, submitted a letter which refutes most of McDonough’s claims: “This current level of poor and inadequate maintenance is being used by Carlisle Barracks as an excuse for the demolition of the structure, when this deterioration can be directly traced to a failure of maintenance by the United States Army Garrison…it is obvious [they] have failed in [their] regulatory, legal and ethical responsibilities.”

The children who never came home
Carlisle cemetery
Photo Brenda Norrell
McDonough also claims that all relevant agencies and interested parties were contacted regarding the demolition, including 25 federally recognized tribes. The coalition is doubtful that tribes who may have been consulted were informed of the historic and cultural relevance of the farmhouse to the CIIS and given recent research regarding the structure. The coalition has requested a re-initiation of the Section 106 process per the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires consultation with interested parties. In arguing for the historical significance of the building, the Coalition points to a 1918 publication by CIIS that clearly discusses the use of this building for classes and housing by Indian students. The Coalition also points out that there is documented proof that the farmhouse played a role inCarlisle’s Civil War history and was used as a social club for the segregated African American Soldiers during World War II.

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 in the 1930s was the moving of original graves of 186 children who died at the school to make way for an entrance road.

A nationwide symposium is scheduled for October 5th -6th,Carlisle, PA: Site of Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamations. Descendants have requested that plans for demolition be postponed until after this gathering to give descendants and relatives a chance to visit the site and have their objections heard. Carlisle Barracks will not promise to honor the request, but admit “there is a very good possibility that the farmhouse will still be standing during the scheduled…symposium.”

Sandra L. Cianciulli
Accounting Assistant
520 West Pennsylvania Avenue
Fort Washington, PA  19034
dir phone:  267-434-3036

FAX:  215-542-1282

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