This is the earliest known photograph of the farmhouse at Carlisle Indian Industrial School. It was taken by John Leslie, a Native student.

Carlisle Indian School Descendants Sought for Heritage Center Planning

Rick Kearns

Activists are looking for descendants of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School to get their input for development of a Heritage Center at the farmhouse located in the present-day Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

The Carlisle Indian School Farmhouse Coalition, which successfully saved the farmhouse at the school, is distributing an online survey that is accessible through the Carlisle Indian School Descendants, Relatives and Friends page on Facebook. Through the survey, the Coalition is reaching out to the many thousands of people whose ancestors attended Carlisle.

RELATED: Carlisle Indian Industrial School Farmhouse to Be Preserved

“It is imperative to the integrity of this project that it be guided in all planning and implementation by the input of the descendants,” said Louellyn White, Akwesasne Mohawk, a Carlisle descendant and the founder and spokesperson for the Coalition.

“At this point in the process it’s essential that we hear the voices of the descendants. They need to be the ones who have a say in how the stories of their families are told. We hope the Heritage Center will be a place devoted specifically to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. There are other places such as museums, galleries, etc. that provide interpretation of the history of Native America, but there isn’t anything that tells the story of the residential school legacy in the U.S.,” White said.

Towards that end White developed a survey that asks a series of questions designed to gauge interest in the Heritage Center, as well as what should be included in the center’s work and activities. Before the first question in the survey, the introduction provides an overview of the plan.

“The proposed Heritage Center will be dedicated to healing, research, public understanding, education, and interpretation. The success of the Heritage Center in part, is dependent on your vision as a descendant,” reads the introduction.

White also explained that the Coalition is in consultation with the U.S. Army and that the Interpretative Plan for the Heritage Center has been sent to 200 individuals, tribal councils, leaders and others for the planning and use of the center. The survey site, White noted, makes the Interpretative Plan available to all interested parties and responses to the survey are starting to come in.

“Already we have received over 60 responses from descendants from British Columbia and Alaska, Canada to Oklahoma, New York to Minnesota, Montana to Michigan… members of dozens of nations are generously offering ideas, rich commentary and offers to help and provide any support possible in this historic project,” White said.

“Their support for a truthful, respectful honoring of their relatives and their nations confirms the need for our continued commitment to doing things from the ‘ground up,’ directed by those most greatly impacted by their experiences at CIIS,” White said.

She added that the survey will likely run until summer and offered thanks in advance to those who will share their stories.

If you are a Carlisle descendant, take the survey here.

RELATED: Carlisle Indian Industrial School Files Go Digital

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