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Digital records unearth Indian school history - abc27 WHTM

Digital records unearth Indian school history

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CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) -

"It is a great mistake to think that the Indian is born an inevitable savage. He is born a blank, like all the rest of us."

- Captain. Richard H. Pratt, School Superintendent, 1892.

"It was a suppressed story. It was suppressed publicly but perhaps even more damaging it was suppressed internally," Native American storyteller Dovie Thomason said.

From the plains of the Dakotas to the costal Carolinas, they arrived in Carlisle shaken, scared and young; dozens of different tribes with different languages, but all regarded as the same.

"Within five years, there were 50 schools modeled by what was happening here," Thomason said.

"Cultural assimilation," as it was called was a late 19th century effort to acquaint Native Americans with a modern world.

The former Indian school now sits within the Carlisle Barracks. The irony is that while the intent was cultural cleansing, quite the opposite happened; that's because the school kept meticulous student records.

Now, those records have been reborn.

Barbara Landis took some of the first steps to modernize the complicated records of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and the monumental task has been passed on through the Dickinson College Digitalization Project.

Students involved in the project took several summer trips to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. where they scanned more than 20,000 documents.

"You were scanning documents the whole time and the best part about that was that, in between the computer doing what it had to do, you could really get a sense of what the file was saying," said Frank Vitale.

Those files are now continuously uploaded to the public portal carlisleindian.dickinson.edu/.

"This is contributing to the reservoir of human knowledge," international student Xueyin Zha said.

From this unique education, there are no two stories or outcomes alike. Organizers say this project is less redemption than it is overdue recognition.

"It's just so incredibly important. This is my history, too, and so we are all going to benefit from this," said Landis.

On top of the digital archives at Dickinson, The Army War College has a library of photo's available to visitors.

 

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