Looking Back at the Carlisle School, by Maddy Starling

This evening, I decided to take a walk around Opossum Lake’s walking trails hoping I would notice some of the changes that had happened during this week of cold weather. The most noticeable thing was that there were fewer people out on the water. Probably due to the crisp breeze over the water. I also noticed that the birds seemed jumpier than usual. I could usually spot a few red-winged black birds, but tonight it seemed that every slight movement caused ruffling through the marshy littoral-zone. I’m not sure what was making them so jumpy, but it ruined my bird watching for the evening. The Cattails also have been severely affected by the weather. They have all developed white tuffs, which I learned when I looked it up are their seeds beginning to prepare for the fall (pictured below). It is amazing to see how quickly this place has adapted to the changing weather. Although I am not convinced that fall is fully upon us yet, this place sure is.

I decided to sit on the bench on the hill that overlooks the whole lake so I could really take in the scenery. As I sat there, I wondered if there were once Indigenous people on this land or in Carlisle. Of course, I knew there were Indigenous people in Carlisle at some point, but those were children stolen from their homes to go to the Carlisle Indian School. I wanted to take a moment to talk about this school after reading about it in chapters 8 and 11 of our book. With the school just 10 minutes from my house, it is shocking how little I was taught about the school. I mean most kids have a lot of questions on why there is a little graveyard in front of the Army War College in town, but the answers don’t usually go too in depth. Honestly, the only time it was really talked about was if a student chose to do it for a project or at higher level history classes like AP U.S. History. The history of the Carlisle Indian School is not something this town is proud of. Other than the graveyard, most of the school building have been transferred for other use for the Army War College with small plaques to mention what they used to be. What used to be one of the schoolhouses, is now a gym for Army officials, but the pictures of the students are still present in one of the hallways.

In the past year however, it has been hard to keep the school out of the community’s mind. Over the past few years, the Army has been trying to find the families of the children buried in the cemetery in hopes of returning their remains. Last year, there was a large ceremony as six remains were returned to their native reservations. That moment made the town have to relive its terrible history as every local news source was reporting it. I have always had a strong dislike for the school and what it stood for but reading the horrors the book brought up made me realize the mental torture aspect of the school. These children were brainwashed and beaten into giving up every belief from their culture. The histories relived on pages 151, 156 and 212-213 I had never heard before even though I live in the town that created them. This really makes me wonder if under Trumps “Patriotic Education” anything about the Carlisle Indian School will be taught.

As the sun began to set and the everything began to settle around the lake, including my thoughts, I took one last look around. The crickets and frogs created a symphony surrounding the edge of the lake. Almost like they were letting the rest of the lake know it was time to settle in for the night. And I think they got the memo because when I walked back to my car there was less rustling in the cattails and I finally got to spot a that red and yellow wing peacefully sitting upon a branch. I hope this place doesn’t lose too much of its beauty as the seasons change and instead just changes its form. I think next week I will go deeper into the woods here in hopes of seeing some new things to write about, but until then I’ll say goodbye to my hour of nature for the week.