How it Began

In 1879, the United States government undertook a project aimed at assimilating Native American youth into mainstream American culture.

Civil War veteran Richard Henry Pratt spearheaded the effort to create an off-reservation boarding school.

Carlisle Indian School Football

Historical Achievements



Pratt’s techniques of compulsory religious conversion, English-only requirement, and forced adoption of western dress and customs, was trying for the students. Most students ranged between 14 and 18 years old, although some reports note students who were even younger. Students were separated by tribal affiliation, so that those speaking the same indigenous languages could not communicate with one another. Severe disciplinary methods were used including corporal punishment and solitary confinement.



But along with that trauma and tragedy, Carlisle gave students an opportunity to explore the world outside of the reservations they called home. The school fielded many highly regarded athletic teams, including baseball and football teams with icon Jim Thorpe. The internationally acclaimed Carlisle band performed at the Presidential inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt, and every other inauguration held during its operation. From the ranks of Carlisle alumni rose many noted activists and advocates who championed the cause of cultural preservation.

To create a collaborative, sustainable legacy honoring the achievements, struggles and contributions of the students who attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the first government-run Indian boarding school. To bring awareness to the general public of the Indian boarding school era’s goals of education and assimilation.

A campaign to create the Carlisle Indian Industrial School Heritage Center, a comprehensive museum and memorial to the students of Carlisle.

The Carlisle Project is a comprehensive multi-phase campaign dedicated to exploring the complex legacy of the school as the nation’s first non-reservation boarding school for indigenous youth. What began as an experiment to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” stands today as an example of the capacity to overcome incredible challenges.


  • Oral History and Archives
  • Exhibit Room
  • Memorial Wall
  • Classroom Recreation
  • Sports Hall of Fame
  • Theater
  • Tribute to US Army involvement