Native American Histories In Carlisle

The Carlisle area is a significant site for understanding Native American experience.  For thousands of years, Native Americans lived in this region, until European explorers and early Americans displaced native inhabitants.  Importantly, this is also the site of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, whose mission was to “civilize” by stripping Native American children of their language and culture. This learning community will explore the histories and experiences from the Native American perspective through archaeological exploration, archival research, and visits from Native American scholars and artists. 

Learning Community Coordinator

Dickinson student


Your learning community faculty will be assisted by a student "learning community coordinator."  The LCC assists the faculty in the planning and coordination of out-of-classroom LC experiences, and works with the learning community students directly to explore the learning community themes. 

Naji Thompson is a rising senior, double majoring in Africana Studies and Anthropology (currently studying abroad in Yaoundé, Cameroon for the final semester of my junior year).  She’s from Springfield, New Jersey.

Naji is a sprinter on the Dickinson Track and Field team. She is also a Peer Educator from the Prevention, Education, and Advocacy Center and a Social Justice Peer Educator for Landis House.  She’s active in Dickinson’s Black Student Union. In the fall of 2018 she will also be the house manager for X House, Dickinson’s Special Interest House for Black Culture. She was recently inducted into Wheel and Chain, recognizing outstanding Senior women.

1.  Indigenous Education: Native Americans, Schooling, and the Carlisle Experiment

The year 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary of the closing of the infamous institution, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.  This first-year seminar will take up the question of how the United States government has shaped educational policy for Native Americans and how Native Americans have in turn responded, reshaping and reclaiming their own indigenous education.  Drawing from historical accounts, fiction, and art, this seminar will explore the goals of U.S. sponsored Indian education and the experiences of Native Americans themselves.  We will focus particularly on the flagship institution in Carlisle, which became the prototype for boarding schools throughout North America, both in the U.S. and Canada.  Our seminar will benefit from a rich array of visiting scholars and artists and the Carlisle Journeys conference ( , organized by the Cumberland County Historical Association (CCHS).  Students will also dig deeply into the archives of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, held at both Dickinson ( and the CCHS, in order to complete their own final research projects.  

Professor: Amy Farrell, American Studies
Time: MF 11:30

2.  Before Carlisle: Illuminating the native American Histories of our Community

Walking through the borough of Carlisle, visitors are met with numerous markers, plaques, and buildings that commemorate and educate the public about the people and events that shaped the community’s Euro-American history. The history of the Native American communities who lived in this area for over 8,000 years, however, is practically non-existent. One has to search it out in the corners of museums. The few stories told are those of massacres and kidnappings during the earliest moments of European colonization. The most prominent Native American narratives are often those of children brought from other indigenous communities to be “re-educated” at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School between 1879 and 1918. In this seminar, students will learn about the processes that led to the “silencing” of local Native American histories through analytical reading and discussion. They will also develop the research and writing skills necessary to bring indigenous histories of the Carlisle area back to life. Students will conduct research into past Native American lives by learning about the methods and data made available through archaeology, environmental studies, and history both written and oral. This will involve field and research trips to the Pennsylvania State Museum, the Cumberland County Historical Society, and the Dickinson College Archives. Students will share the results of their research through more traditional writing assignments, including short papers; but the final projects will use new digital media to make public and more prominent the histories of Carlisle’s original inhabitants.  

Professor: Maria Bruno, Anthropology
Time: MF 11:30