Sunday, October 30, 2011
The Legacy of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School
Woven paper splints
Educational Genocide: The Legacy of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School is woven from paper splints first printed with historical documents and photographs. The outside of the basket was created from the speech* by Captain Richard H. Pratt, founder of the first Indian Boarding School in Carlisle, PA, in 1892. Pratt felt that if you gave Indians proper education and religious training, they could be civilized out of their “savagery” and assimilated into white society. Pratt coined the phrase “Kill the Indian and save the man” which personified the school’s mission to deny Native culture. Any child caught speaking their native language was punished. The photograph woven into the lid is of the Carlisle Boarding school student body in 1912.
The basket interior is woven from the estimated 10-12,000 names of children from 140 tribes who attended Carlisle from 1879-1918. During my research, I found the names of 2 of my great-grandparents.
This basket is considered a double-weave, which means construction started in the interior center and was woven up to desired height. The splints are ‘turned’, woven down the outside and finished on the bottom. It is a difficult technique and The Museum of the Cherokee Indian (Cherokee, NC) only recognizes 13 living Cherokees that have mastered the skill. Over an 18 months period, I taught myself how to do it and the museum now considers me to be the 14th living maker of double-weaves. When I showed this basket to one of our premier basket makers, she said that this shape, called the Coffin shape, is the most difficult one to make and was considered sacred.
*Delivered at 19th Annual Conference of Charities and Corrections, Denver CO 1892