you destroy a person's language, it destroys their world view. They're
left with only fragments. I speak Spanish, and I speak English. When
you think in Spanish, it's totally different. When they leave the
school and go back to the reservation, they're still Indian, but not
- Jorge Estevez (Taino), participant coordinator, Museum of the American Indian, New York, 2000
destruction of native languages was one of Pratt's main objectives.
Children began English lessons as soon as they arrived at Carlisle.
Students were punished, sometimes severely, if caught speaking their
native languages, even in private.
According to Tsianina
Lomawaima, a professor at the University of Arizona and author of a
book about the Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma, Carlisle and other
boarding schools modeled after it didn't instantly eliminate native
languages. But because of their school experiences, many former
students decided not to teach these languages to their children.
Hollow Horn, 38, who works at KILI, a Lakota-language radio station on
the Pine Ridge Reservation, had several relatives who attended Carlisle
and has witnessed this in his own community.
"They didn't let
[the students] speak in the old language," says Hollow Horn, a member
of revered leader Crazy Horse's band of the Lakota people. "They set a
dangerous precedent. I'm fluent in the Sioux language. Most people my
age don't speak the language. It's dying out. The whole spirituality
and way of thinking is intertwined with the language. That's all being
lost. Carlisle was the starting point for this."
In 1995, Ed
Farnham, a major in the US Army, learned he was being transferred from
his base in Germany to the Carlisle Barracks. Originally from upstate
New York, Farnham was excited he would be living closer to his family.
When he called his mother to tell her, she asked him, "Don't you know
what that place is?" Only then did he realize he would be living in the
same Carlisle that had been the subject of murmurings in his family.
grandmother, Mamie Mt. Pleasant, attended the Indian School for nearly
a decade. A Tuscarora Indian, she was 14 when she was sent to Carlisle.
Mamie's older brother Frank had been one of the school's star athletes
in football and track and field. When Mamie came to Carlisle in 1908,
Frank was in London as a member of the US Olympic track-and-field team,
but was unable to compete in the broad jump because of a torn knee
ligament. Before she graduated from Carlisle in 1917, Mamie learned to
sew and was rumored to have been courted by another Carlisle athlete -
Though he grew up across the street from his grandmother on the Tuscarora reservation near Niagara Falls, New York, Farnham wa