Tools of assimilation
Pratt wanted his charges to learn trades as well as academics, half of
each day was devoted to reading, writing and arithmetic, and the other
half to trades, such as blacksmithing and carpentry for the boys,
sewing and laundry for the girls. The entire system was shaped by
Pratt's military past. Boys dressed in uniforms, and girls wore
Victorian-style dresses. The students practiced marching and drilling
and were given military-style ranks.
One of the few original
structures still standing on the grounds is a haunting reminder of the
school's rigidity. Built in 1777 to store gunpowder, the guardhouse
contained four cells in which children were locked up, sometimes for up
to a week, for various indiscretions. Running away was a common offense.
addition to their vocational and academic pursuits, the Indian children
also studied the humanities. Pictures in the students' sketch books
chart the progress of assimilation. When they first arrived, children
drew things they remembered from home, such as buffalo hunts and
warriors counting coup on horseback. In time, the drawings evolved into
representations of their new lives - including images of farms and
children with short hair wearing European-style clothing.
composer Brent Michael Davids, who is performing at Powwow 2000, has
studied the use of music as a tool of assimilation. Though the children
came from backgrounds rich in song, they had no concept of European
approaches to music. "The students sang songs at mealtimes in a
four-part harmony," Davids explains. "It was a completely different
singing style. The hymns they were forced to sing were the Western
style, espousing the values of being good Christians."
120 members of Davids' Stockbridge Mohican clan attended Carlisle. He
learned about them while composing music for a CD-ROM about the Indian
School. "[Carlisle] was a missing link for me," Davids says. "I knew
they tried to kill us, then herded us onto reservations, but I couldn't
figure out how we cut our hair and started wearing shoes."
also was used to indoctrinate the students in the customs of white
America. Lynne Allen, an artist who lives in Furlong, Pennsylvania,
remembers finding a photograph of her Lakota grandmother, Daphne
Waggoner, performing in a Thanksgiving play at Carlisle. "Indians
dressed as Pilgrims and Indians dressed as Indians," Allen says,
laughing at the irony of Native Americans portraying stereotypes of