How should textbooks acknowledge the struggles of American Indians?

American Yawp, Chapter 17: The West

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To find out what happened to Tom Torlino and his descendants, read this 2013 article from the Navajo Times

The same man who photographed Tom Torlino in Carlisle (John N. Choate) also took this photograph on the left of ex-slave Henry W. Spradley

Would Spradley have written his life story as “Up From Slavery” as Booker T. Washington did?


The historical documents below concern the fate of Tom Torlino.  What do they reveal about his relationship with the Carlisle Indian School?  How do they support or challenge some of his family’s oral traditions about Hastiin To’Haali as described in the Navajo Times article (above) from 2013?

Richard Henry Pratt to John Oberly, January 4, 1886

Pratt letter


Tom Torlino and family in the 1910 US Census1910 Census

The decade of the 1880s marked what was later known as the “closing of the frontier” in American history –a period when homestead settlements and railroad lines across what had been considered the “Great American Desert” changed the landscape and culture of the western plains in what appeared at the time to be almost irrevocable ways.  For many white Americans of this era, this change was a triumph for civilization, a sign of “American Progress,” as the painter John Gast indicated in his famous allegorical image from 1872, but for others, not only Indians, but also for many former slaves and reformers, it was a time of hypocrisy and diminished expectations.  Nothing better captures this dichotomy than the experiment in Indian vocational education that Washington described, which had begun at Hampton, but which then continued during the 1880s and 1890s most famously at the Carlisle Indian School headed by U.S. army officer Richard Henry Pratt.  Faculty, staff and students at Dickinson College are currently working to bring together many of the documents and images of the Carlisle Indian School, which existed until World War I, at a new digital resource center.

Three Eras of Nineteenth-Century Indian Policy

  • Removal
  • Reservation
  • Allotment


Indian Nations

500 Indian Nations (shaded area = Plains tribes) Courtesy of American Yawp

Carlisle v. Army (1912)

Carlisle IndiansRecently rediscovered photograph of 1912 Carlisle v. Army football game, courtesy of Aiden Pinsker


For more information on the Carlisle Indian School, see the Introduction by Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose from a recent book of essays derived from a conference held at Dickinson College.

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Legacy Debates

  • Learn more about the ongoing interpretive debate over “the myth of the vanishing Indian” from this recent New York Times article about Pekka Hamalainen’s new book, Indigenous Continent (2022)