“The common schools are the stomachs of the country
in which all people that come to us are assimilated within a generation.
When a lion eats an ox, the lion does not become an ox
but the ox becomes a lion.”
-Henry Ward Beecher
“If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man
he would have made me so in the first place.
He put in your heart certain wishes and plans;
in my heart he put other and different desires.
Each man is good in the sight of the Great Spirit.
It is not necessary, that eagles should be crows.”
-Sitting Bull (Teton Sioux)
The Carlisle Indian School‘s mission was to shape identity. In its infancy, that shaping meant to transform American Indian children to resemble their so-called “civilized” American brothers and sisters. As the experiment progressed, that purpose shifted to one of “influence” rather than “transformation,” according to Francis Leupp, U.S. Indian Commissioner, 1904. It is our purpose to respectfully honor those students and their descendants who lived the experiment, celebrate with those who prospered from it, and grieve with those whose lives were diminished by it. This is a history that belongs to all Americans. The identities of all Americans are shaped by the Carlisle experiment. Much of the text on these pages reflect the collaborative efforts of Barbara Landis and Genevieve Bell, and none of this work is associated with the Cumberland County Historical Society. Our express purpose in keeping this history alive is to encourage historians to invigorate a troubling conversation and to deliver the Carlisle Indian School student names to their respective nations.