2000 will doubtless be an emotional time, but the members of the
organizing committee, comprised of about half native and half nonnative
members, hope the event will help salve the unrelenting pain felt by so
Nadine West, a Chippewa Indian and member of the powwow
committee, has made an annual pilgrimage from her home in Harrisburg to
the Indian cemetery each Memorial Day for years. She claims the
decision to schedule the powwow during a national holiday of
remembrance was deliberate and symbolic. "Those children in that
cemetery are our veterans," she says.
Originally from the
Cheyenne River Lakota reservation in South Dakota, Carolyn Rittenhouse
of Lancaster joined the powwow committee after realizing the impact of
the school on Lakota children. They were the first students to attend
the school, and more than 1,100 of them went to Carlisle throughout its
tenure, including her great-uncle, Thomas Hawk Eagle. Four generations
removed from Carlisle, Rittenhouse's daughter Danielle, 9, plans to
dance the jingle-dress dance at the powwow.
the powwow also will be a positive experience for non-Indians. "The
nonnative community will be educated when they attend - seeing the
dancing, eating the food, hearing the stories - so healing can begin
for them, as well," she claims. "The event won't only impact native
people, but the whole community."
Since the closing of the
Carlisle Indian School, the descendants of its students and the
descendants of the community into which they were to be assimilated
have never come together to consciously honor he students' memory. It
is significant that when they do so this month, the commemoration will
take place on the ground where the tears of those first Lakota children
fell 121 years ago.
"I hope that everybody there has a sense of
the sacrifice that the children made," says keynote speaker N. Scott
Momaday. "Sacrifice is related to the word 'sacred.' It is a sacred
place because of the sacrifice made by the children."
Anderson is the managing editor at CENTRAL PA magazine in Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania. She may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com