Boarding School Voices


Boarding School Voices

Carlisle Indian School Students Speak

Arnold Krupat

402 pages
18 photographs, 2 illustrations, appendix, index


November 2021


$80.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2021


$80.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2021


$80.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Boarding School Voices is both an anthology of mostly unpublished writing by former students of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and a study of that writing. The boarding schools’ ethnocidal practices have become a metaphor for the worst evils of colonialism, a specifiable source for the ills that beset Native communities today. But the fuller story is one not only of suffering and pain, loss and abjection, but also of ingenious agency, creative syntheses, and unimagined adaptations.

Although tragic for many students, for others the Carlisle experience led to positive outcomes in their lives. Some published short pieces in the Carlisle newspapers and others sent letters and photos to the school over the years. Arnold Krupat transcribes selections from the letters of these former students literally and unedited, emphasizing their evocative language and what they tell of themselves and their home communities, and the perspectives they offer on a wider American world. Their sense of themselves and their worldview provide detailed insights into what was abstractly and vaguely referred to as “the Indian question.” These former students were the oxymoron Carlisle superintendent Richard Henry Pratt could not imagine and never comprehended: they were Carlisle Indians.

Author Bio

Arnold Krupat is a professor emeritus of global studies and literature at Sarah Lawrence College. He is the author of numerous books, including All That Remains: Varieties of Indigenous Expression (Nebraska, 2009) and “That the People Might Live”: Loss and Renewal in Native American Elegy. He is the editor of Companion to James Welch’s “The Heartsong of Charging Elk” (Nebraska, 2015).


"Boarding School Voices is a much-needed addition to the scholarship on Carlisle that has appeared in recent years. By accounting for the successes and the frustrations that Carlisle graduates dealt with, Krupat's study is a testament to their stunning endurance, adaptations, innovations, and mobility. It extends the crucial work of Dickinson College's archivists to make this rich archive of Indigenous writing accessible, while offering a useful model for how to contextualize and interpret Indigenous writings that emerged from American Indian boarding schools. For any reader exploring these understudied archives, Boarding School Voices is an indispensable work."—Frank Kelderman, American Historical Review

"Students of the boarding school era in particular may find Boarding School Voices to be a wonderful research companion, with its straightforward contribution, powerful photographs, and accessible writing—replete with a helpful appendix of those referenced by name in the book."—Sarah  Whitt, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"This is a highly valuable book for those who are interested in boarding schools, labor, allotment, federal policy, Indigenous agency, and family history."—Savannah Waters, South Dakota History

"Krupat's work stands as a significant contribution to our understanding of Carlisle, its students, and American Indian boarding schools."—Geoff Hamilton, American Indian Quarterly

"This work gives new perspectives to the Native American boarding school era and a rare glimpse in the linguistic development of English in Indigenous cultures. The voices of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School graduates are illuminated by the preservation of these letters and, in turn, they open opportunities for expanding this field of study beyond historical accounts."—Meghan Nguyen, Chronicles of Oklahoma

“Recovering the Native American voices in this book is an important undertaking to understanding Native American intellectualism and activism in the long history between the nineteenth century and today. . . . Boarding School Voices is written in such a readable way that any [person] simply curious about Native American history and literary production may be interested in reading it.”—Lionel Larré, editor of Tales of the Old Indian Territory and Essays on the Indian Condition

“The letters and other student-authored texts this book makes accessible are an untapped resource for scholars and students working to challenge the restrictive assimilationist-resistance binary that has dominated narratives of the boarding school experience.”—Jacqueline Emery, editor of Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. “I talk white nicely”: The 1890 Letters of Returned Students from Carlisle
2. “I have always liked to write”: Selected Writings of Mike Burns (Hoomothya)
3. “I am interested in my life”: Further Words from Former Students of Carlisle
4. “One of the most trusted members of the faculty”: Siceni Nori, Some “Successful” Carlisle Indians, and the 1914 Congressional Hearings
Appendix: Carlisle Students Named in this Book

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