Carlisle Indian Industrial School History

Carlisle Barracks was home to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School between 1879 and 1918, educating more than 10,000 Native American children during its 39-year operation. Today, the Department of the Army and Carlisle Barracks continues to preserve the history of the school with more than 20 buildings on the National Historic Register, close coordination with the Pennsylvania State Historical Preservation Office and supporting visits and information requests.

 
 

We've created this page as a "one-stop shop" for information, photos and historical documents that cover this unique period of history at Carlisle Barracks. Many are pulled directly from the archives at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

Click on the corresponding menu link on the right to find out more about the history of the buildings from the days of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, their purpose during the days of the school and how they are being used today.

 

Army enters consultations with Native American tribes

Nearly 100 years after the Army assumed responsibility for the graves of students from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the Army is now in consultation with numerous Native American tribes for disinterment of remains to their families and communities.
More...

 

About the Carlisle Indian Industrial School

  • Founded by Army officer Richard Pratt to provide vocational, educational opportunities for Native Americans stemming from his experience in the Frontier Wars. The Army transferred Carlisle Barracks to the Department of the Interior on August 25, 1879 by virtue of General Order No. 52. The post was transferred to the custody and control of the Interior Department to be used as a school for the education of Indian children. The Order further stipulated that the post would revert to Army control whenever needed for military purposes
  • Students recruited directly from western reservations
  • The school sought to prepare Native American students for life in American society and for skilled jobs in numerous industries.
  • Once the student mastered English, pre-vocational courses were introduced, as were more advanced academic subjects, including chemistry, physics, government, history, advanced mathematics, and biology.
  • The daily schedules combined hands-on work experience, academic classes, a study hour, and extracurricular activities.
  • The majority of the students pursued vocational training that included shoemaking, tinsmithing, carpentry, blacksmithing, wagon-making, and bricklaying.
  • The first students were enrolled for a minimum of three years. The curriculum requirements changed over the years and the minimum stay later was extended to five years. The full course of study at Carlisle required ten years to complete. The first class graduated in 1889.
  • Carlisle also offered agricultural training and the school operated three farms.
  • Under the supervision of craftsmen, students constructed numerous wood frame and masonry buildings on the school campus, many of which are included in the National Historic Landmark District.
  • Carlisle athletics, led by Jim Thorpe, Charles 'Chief' Bender and Louis Tewanima -- and coaches and trainers, "Pop" Warner, Vance McCormick, and Wallace Denny, were known across the country
  • Early in the 20th century, annual enrollment at the Indian School reached 1,000 students, representing more than 70 tribes.
  • Native Americans served in 'the Great War,' but the 1st World War triggered closure of the 39-year-old Carlisle Indian Industrial School. On September 1, 1918, Carlisle Barracks reverted to War Department control.
  • The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center has developed a digital collection of photos from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School period. The catalog can be found at http://cdm16635.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16635coll15

You can learn more about the inner-workings of the school by reading the Annual Reports from 1888 and 1909.