Carlisle Indian School Farmhouse

Since 2011, the Carlisle Indian School Farmhouse Coalition has been tirelessly working as a volunteer grassroots movement toward the preservation of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS) Farmhouse and laying the groundwork for a Heritage Center dedicated to its former students.

We have established a respectful relationship with the Carlisle Barracks who, after reversing their decision to raze the Farmhouse structure, have been supportive of our commitment in developing a Heritage Center. We have had several meetings with various parties at the Barracks and are now at a point where we must propose a formal plan to move forward with the Farmhouse as a Heritage Center. Part of this plan is to submit a formal request by an organization with fiscal solvency, to lease the property.

As a direct descendant myself – my grandfather, great-uncle, and great-aunt attended Carlisle – I have been charged with protecting the voices of descendants and their wishes. Unlike many other Indian Residential/Boarding Schools (IRS), there are no living survivors of Carlisle and descendants, particularly direct descendants, continue to be affected by the intergenerational impacts of IRS. Thus, it has been imperative that CIIS descendants are given a platform to voice their opinion and share their family stories.

Through a CIIS descendant survey, we have learned that healing must take precedent over other forms of interpretation, programing, etc. in order to address the intergenerational impacts descendants’ experience. Creating a safe space where descendants can remember, honor, and commemorate their loved ones continues to guide our efforts. The need for healing has become more evident with the recent efforts to repatriate loves ones buried at the CIIS cemetery. This demonstrates the need for a safe space where visitors can grieve their family members and move toward healing.

We seek to educate and create awareness about the history of CIIS and the broader legacy of Indian Residential/Boarding Schools. The CIIS has national significance as the first-all-Indian-off-reservation-federal-Indian boarding school. Accordingly, we envision a space for Carlisle descendants, survivors of IRS, descendants of other IRS, and the general public to share, learn, research, witness, honor, and ultimately to reconcile and heal.

The Farmhouse has symbolized a physical archival space where descendants can reconnect with their loved ones and the lives they lived while students at Carlisle. Not all Carlisle students stayed at the Farmhouse, but they all shared common experiences in that landscape. They were all connected, just as we are as Native peoples across North America.  Despite attempts to eradicate and assimilate us, we endure and seek to thrive through respecting and honoring our relatives’ lives and stories.

In keeping with the mission as stated above we envision a space that meets the following goals:

The Space: 
o   Re-claiming of sacred space

o   Creating a sacred space

o   Space as archive

o   Space as holder of archives

·      Creating a sacred space for healing intergenerational impacts of boarding schools and colonialism.

·      Creating sacred space for healing through sharing, truth telling, storytelling

·      Hold gatherings for descendants to reconnect with their families and learn about CIS

·      Offer workshops for CIS history, intergenerational impacts, healing, and allyship

·      Offer writers-in-residence space

·      Celebrate the resiliency and survivance of our families

·      Celebrate the accomplishments, triumphs and trials of our loved ones

·      Celebrate that “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” ideology was a failure and we are still here

·      Serve as a clearinghouse for CIS data collections across the nation

·      Gather CIS descendants stories

·      Burial research

The Carlisle Barracks is awaiting a formal request from us to start the process of securing a lease agreement. While we have no promises, securing the Farmhouse is in our favor.

To make this dream become a reality, the Farmhouse Coalition needs financial resources, legal guidance, expertise in fundraising, non-profit management and strategic planning, expertise in historic building renovation, museum and interpretive planning.

Initial Funding will be needed for the following:

·      Planning meetings for descendant Core Planners (travel to Carlisle, lodging, etc.)

·      Travel to other facilities to obtain information on best practices: Shingwaulk Institute, the Mohawk Institute, Haskell

As it stands, the Farmhouse has had no occupants since 2012. The building has undergone many renovations in its 150 years but is in desperate need of repair, renovation, and ongoing maintenance. Since the building is quite large, encompassing an apartment and main house, and would be too costly to renovate the entire structure at the outset, we envision a gradual development plan to minimize costs.

Although major renovations to the heating and wiring system, in addition to exterior painting, are needed in the long term, the building is structurally sound and can be occupied immediately with minor cosmetic repairs. Formal estimates for major renovations can be determined once long term use of the building is agreed upon.

There are many possibilities for a visitor residence, visitor’s center, interpretive exhibits, etc.

Starting small, renovating a few rooms in the beginning and slow incremental growth would help ensure sustainability. The property has been nominated by the U.S. Army for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. While this is in process, responsibility for maintenance of the Farmhouse remains the responsibility of the Barracks until an out-lease to an organization is approved.  Occupants of the building would then be required to adhere to NHPA guidelines for protecting the architectural and historic integrity of the building, which is part of our mission.

Since the U.S. Army at Carlisle Barracks made the decision to halt demolition of the building in 2012, we have developed numerous positive relationships with individuals, Tribal Nations, and organizations that have supported our efforts. We have received nothing but positive accolades for our efforts in saving the structure and encouragement to make the Heritage Center become a reality. Descendants have also offered their expertise as researchers and legal council and support as liaison’s with their respective tribal leaders.

Louellyn White

Louellyn White, PhD (Mohawk) is a direct descendant of three CIIS students, including her grandfather, Mitchell Arionhiawa:kon White. Dr. White serves as the founder and spokesperson for the Carlisle Indian School Farmhouse Coalition and has been actively involved in the preservation of the CIIS Farmhouse and the development of a Heritage Center. She started an online petition to stop the demolition of the Farmhouse that garnered over 900 signatures; reached out to hundreds of Native Nations; wrote newspaper articles; was interviewed numerous times by national media outlets; contributed to and distributed an Interpretive Plan for the Farmhouse; designed a descendant survey to obtain input into the use of the Farmhouse; and has spoken about the Farmhouse history and its meaning as a physical archive at international conferences. She is an Associate Professor of First Peoples Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec and has published on Mohawk language, culture, and education as well as her family’s experiences at the CIIS. She investigated CIIS history including the Outing program and a school play in which her great-uncle John White played a leading role. A book chapter reflecting this research, “White Power and the Performance of Assimilation: Carlisle Indian School and the Lincoln Institute” was published in the edited collection by Fear-Segal, J. and Rose, S. (2016). The Journal of American Indian Education's theme issue on Indian Boarding Schools (Spring, 2018) contains her piece on "Who Get's to Tell the Stories? Carlisle Indian School: Imagining a Place of Memory Through Descendant Voices."

Donations will be utilized to bring members of our core planning group to Carlisle for strategizing sessions: travel, lodging, food, etc. Until we have a fiscal agent, GoFundMe contributions will go directly into a separate bank account set up by me (Louellyn White) specifically for Carlisle Indian School Farmhouse funds.

For a thorough history of the Farmhouse please see Carolyn Tolman's website:  The Farmhouse at Carlisle Barracks
CIS Facebook group:
CIS Farmhouse Facebook group: CIS Farmhouse Facebook group
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Lu White 
Montréal, QC
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