|Montage of Indian students at the Carlisle Indian School
1881 Carlisle, Pennsylvania
photograph by John N. Choate
National Museum of the American Indian
This collage was meant to portray the students at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, but it also seems to symbolize a generation of Native Americans cut off from their homes, their families, and their communities. Carlisle (and other institutions patterned after it) was based on a military model. Boys wore uniforms, and girls wore Victorian-style dresses. Many boarding-school graduates forgot their own language, and when they returned home, they could not even talk with their parents. Twelve thousand Native American children attended Carlisle during the course of its 39-year lifespan, 1879 to 1918.