A time for healing
"My lands are where my people lie buried."
- Crazy Horse, Oglala Sioux leader, 1877
you are driving on Claremont Road in Carlisle, it's easy to miss the
small, tidy cemetery along the side of the road. The long, slender
limbs of a weeping-cherry tree in the nucleus of the plot reach down
like fingers brushing along the arched tops of pristine, white
tombstones surrounded by a short, iron fence. Row after neat row of
graves dot the grass.
The Indian cemetery is one of few traces
of the school left in Carlisle. More than 175 tombstones line the
ground. Prayer cloths, strings of shells and beads and small bundles of
sage and sweetgrass embrace the tree trunk.
The realization is harsh
and unforgiving - there are children buried here. They died of the
diseases that killed many children in those years, regardless of
ethnicity. Climate change, separation anxiety and lack of immunity also
contributed to the toll. Most were sent home for burial, but some had
no relatives who could have made the arrangements, or their homes were
simply too far away. Because of fear of infection, tuberculosis victims
were buried immediately.
Most of the town of Carlisle's
connection to the school revolves around its legendary football team
and Jim Thorpe. In the All-American truck stop just outside of town,
there's a wall covered with framed photographs and newspaper clippings
of Thorpe. A memorial stone in the town's square pays tribute to him.
Wardecker's, a men's clothing store on Hanover Street, which at one
time extended a special line of credit to the Indian School's athletes,
houses a shrine of photographs of Thorpe, Coach "Pop" Warner and the
football team. Carlisle High School's mascot is a buffalo, and its
nickname is the Thundering Herd.
But Native-American memories of
the Carlisle Indian School run much deeper. Beverly Holland, who lives
in Harrisburg, moved to Central Pennsylvania about 20 years ago from
the Yankton Lakota reservation in South Dakota. Her grandfather
attended Carlisle for nearly four years. But, like Ed Farnham, she
didn't make the connection that she was living so close to the former
"I didn't run right to the school after I found out,"
she says. "It was a long time before I could visit the cemetery. I
think I visited there about four or five times before I could stop
It was equally moving for Farnham. "I had no idea what
happened there," he says. "I was ignorant." But when he visited the
grounds for the first time as a soldier, he acknowledges a complete
reversal of attitude. "It was almost a spiritual event for me, once I
understood that's where my grandmother walked for so many years," he
says. "She was Christian. I know she would've gone to the chapel. The
foundation of the chapel was about 200 yards from where we were housed.
Kneeling on the ground [in the cemetery], looking at the graves, you
just have ... more of a reverential attitude."