Institutional death and ceremonial healing far from home: The Carlisle Indian school cemetery

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The remains of 186 Native American children from nearly 50 nations are buried in the Carlisle Indian School cemetery, which today stands just inside the main entrance of the U.S. Army War College, in Carlisle, PA. Taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from homes across the United States, these children-trained for American citizenship and to reject their traditional cultures-died and were buried far from home. The children remain historically and spiritually connected to native peoples across the United States, but the Carlisle Indian burial ground does not fall under NAGPRA. In this article, the complex history of this cemetery-its creation, segregation, removal, contraction, transformation, and preservation-introduces an account of its repossession by the students' descendants at "Powwow 2000: Remembering the Carlisle Indian School."Parallels between the treatment of Indian dead in the Carlisle cemetery and the treatment of Indian ancestral remains are drawn; yet, although a study of loss and recovery, this is not a story of repatriation. Rather, it is an analysis of the history of a unique Indian burial site and its reclamation as a place for ceremony, healing, and recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-171
Number of pages15
JournalMuseum Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010


  • Carlisle Indian School
  • Indian burial ground
  • repatriation

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