Student Life at Carlisle Indian School

Special students with proper training may be enrolled for a two year term in the Business and Telegraphy Departments. These students must have finished a course of academic training equivalent to the academic course followed at Carlisle.

The trades’ departments are open to boys only.

Special students who wish to take up their trade only, who do not desire further academic training, may be admitted for this purpose, provided they have good elementary education.

Unless it is for the best interests of the student to make a change, each student is expected to continue at his trade until it is mastered.

Board and clothing are furnished to students during their period of attendance at school.

The school has a partial military organization, and all students are expected to abide faithfully by the regulations which are in force for their guidance and protection.

Students attend the academic department one half day and pursue their trades or industries the other half day.

There is absolute freedom of religious belief, but all students are expected to attend some church. The various denominations hold Sunday School services each Sunday morning. A special chapel service for the Protestants is held in the Auditorium each Sunday afternoon, at which time one of the ministers from Carlisle leads the service and preaches a sermon. The Catholics meet in another hall at the same time and are under the jurisdiction of the local priest and the sisters. Provision is also made during the week for one hour’s denominational instruction for all students, and at these meetings the pastors and the priest are in charge of the various groups.

There are maintained by the students a Young Men’s Christian Association and a Young Women’s Christian Association, each of which has a large membership and is in a flourishing condition. These Associations exercise a very great influence for good on the student body.

The young women have two literary societies, the Mercer Literary Society and the Susan Longstreth Literary Society, both of which hold meetings each week in their society rooms. The young men have two societies, called the Standard Literary Society and the Invincible Debating Society. These societies meet weekly for special programs and deliberation. All of the societies have constitutions, elect their own officers, and conduct their meetings, subject only to the supervision of certain advisory members from the faculty.

During the school year, there is provided for the students and faculty a series of lectures and entertainments, which take place every other Saturday evening, for which there is no charge for admission. On the alternating Saturday evenings, a general reception for the entire school is held in the Gymnasium.

After the students have satisfactorily completed the course, the school interests itself in their behalf and endeavors to find positions for them, so that they may promptly begin life’s work after their school days are over.

Applications are being made constantly to the school for the services of its graduates and ex-students.

The students publish a weekly newspaper, called The Carlisle Arrow, which is edited and printed by themselves. In addition, there is published by the school The Red Man, a monthly magazine which has a wide influence on matters pertaining to the Indian. It is also printed by the students.

Boys – The government of the school is military only so far as is necessary and is beneficial in character building. The body of the military organization consists of seven troops of dismounted cavalry and a band of forty members. The troops are officered by cadets, who are usually promoted through the grade of non-commissioned officers to second or first lieutenant, and later to captain.

Drills of the squadrons and regiment are occasionally held, but the greater number of drills are in troop formations, with cadet officers in command, the Commandant of Cadets (or other staff officer) being present to supervise the work in the field, helping both the officers and the troops.

The national blue uniform, with the cavalry yellow stripes, chevrons, shoulder straps, trimmings, etc., makes a very pretty effect. The old cavalry carbine is used, and the officers carry sabers.

The regiment as an organization has been present at three Presidential inaugurations; it marched in the parade dedicating the new capitol of Pennsylvania, the inauguration of Pennsylvania’s Governor, and other military parades in the East. Wherever seen, the regiment has received flattering comments, even from the Presidents themselves.

The promotions from ranks are an incentive to the ambitious cadets to put forth efforts to outstrip their fellows. The responsibilities, together with the close supervision given cadet officers, make it possible for them to become skillful not only in the handling of a military body, but in handling men wherever large numbers must be cared for. It is a fact too well known to need discussion that military work forms the habit of graceful carriage, attention to details, respect for superiors, and obedience, and we believe it makes for all around manliness. Some of the boys who have served well here have gone into the army and navy and reached places of trust and honor in comparatively short time. The regular life of the school is conducive to proper habits after school days are past.

Girls – One of the most pleasant features of a girl’s life at Carlisle is the homelike manner in which she lives. Rooms for three or four girls being considered more sanitary, as well as more cheerful and homelike, there are no large dormitories.

Immediately on entering the school, a girl is taught to make her own bed and to keep her own room in order. An orderly for each room is appointed by the matron. It is the duty of this orderly to see that the rooms are swept, aired, and dusted each morning, and that the washbowl, pitcher, washstand, etc., are always in good order. These orderlies are changed each month to give all the girls practice in this work. Each room is given a thorough cleaning every Saturday morning. The girls take great pride in caring for their rooms, each striving to outdo the other in general appearance.

Girls’ Quarters is a three story structure. The younger girls are on the first floor and are in charge of older girls. This supervision is splendid training for the older girls, especially for those who expect to take up matron’s work after leaving school. It is invaluable also in training girls for work in their own homes. Here girls learn from actual experience the care that is necessary regarding the bathing of children, the care of their teeth, the necessity of regularity in sleeping, eating, exercise, etc., and here, too, they see how children imitate those who are older; hence the necessity for care on the part of the mother in regard to the kind of example she sets her children, and her watchfulness in the choice of companions for them.

The discipline of the girls is firm, but kindly. Just as in a well regulated home the daughter does not go away without the consent of her mother, so here the girls must have the matron’s permission before leaving the grounds.

When girls go to town in the evening to a lecture or a concert, they are always accompanied by a matron, or by a teacher who acts as chaperon.

General – It is the constant endeavor of the commandants and the matrons to teach by kindness, example, and firmness that right conduct and right living are the only ways of growing into useful men and women. While certain rules must be made for the government of so large a number of young people, still the thought is always presented to the pupils that the rules are not to deprive them either of pleasures or of benefits, but that they are in reality mileposts to point out the way which has been found best for boys and girls to follow. The great rule, “Do Right”, is the corner stone of all rules and orders.

Every other Saturday evening a general social for pupils and employees is held in the Gymnasium and this form of entertainment gives ample opportunity for training in the art of kindly consideration for others.

Three pupils occupy a room. So far as possible, all occupants of a room are from different tribes. Thus it may occur that a Penobscot from Maine, an Alaskan, and a Yuma from Arizona are living in one room. They relate their experiences, and all profit thereby.

This, in brief, is the statement of a few facts which we hope will give a general idea, not so much of the rules and regulations of the school, as of the principles which guide in all the school management, and will present the general feeling of good fellowship which must exist throughout an institution if it is to receive the best results from its work, as Carlisle does.

Physical Culture

The department of physical training preserves the health of the individual, builds up the body by means of selected exercises, promotes correct habits of standing and walking, corrects improper postures and abnormalities, and, while furnishing a relaxation from the more arduous duties, improves the coordination of mind and body.

No one system is adhered to, but whatever is thought best in the Swedish, German, and other systems, is used. The daily drills are in free exercises, light gymnastics, heavy gymnastics, and gymnastic games. The free gymnastics instruct in the fundamental position of the feet, the legs, the arms, the trunk, and the head, used singly and in combination; light gymnastics, in primary and in advanced movements with wands, clubs, and dumbbells; heavy gymnastics, in graded movements and combinations on the climbing pole and rope, climbing ladder, horizontal bar, traveling rings, trapeze, vaulting bar, horse, horizontal ladder, and parallel bars. Gymnastic games of passball, handball, and basketball vary the exercises. All the work is arranged in grades, both for the boys and for the girls.

Regular periods are devoted each day to this instruction, and it is compulsory for all students. The splendid bearing and good health of the Carlisle students must be attributed in part to these systematic calisthenic exercises.

In addition to the gymnastic work, participation in outdoor games is encouraged. There are tennis courts and croquet yards for the young men and the young women.

On an additional athletic field which has been constructed, much pleasure and exercise are afforded the boys who are not members of the regular school teams.

The large rectangular bottom, which forms a portion of the school grounds, is flooded during the winter months and is eagerly sought by all the students for skating and sledding.

There are eight bowling alleys for the boys and four for the girls, which are free for the use of all the students. Bowling tournaments are arranged during the winter.


The various student teams maintain athletic relations with American universities in football, baseball, lacrosse, basketball, and track sports. The Indians have a reputation for clean playing and gentlemanly behavior on the field, which has created a most favorable impression on the public in favor of the Indian race.

The faculty maintains close supervision over athletics, to the end that they are absolutely free from professionalism and do not detract from the legitimate work of education. The time devoted to training comes out of the students’ playtime and students are not allowed to neglect their studies and school work for this purpose. Practically all the students are afforded the chance to join some of the school teams.

At Carlisle, athletics are for the many not for the few.

It is firmly believed, however, that the travel afforded the students who engage in these various sports, and the meeting as man to man by them of students in the various universities of our land, are in the nature of additional training; and when to this is added the splendid character and bodybuilding results which naturally follow a temperate engagement in athletics, there is abundant justification for the broad stand taken by American schools and colleges for the continuation of athletic sports.

No charge is made to students for admission to the athletic games; neither is there any student fee for the maintenance of athletics.

Outing System

All pupils are expected to spend at least one year in a country home. During the winter, they attend the public school in their neighborhood. Patrons and pupils agree to certain rules governing their relations to each other and to the school. Pupils remain under the jurisdiction of the school and are visited at intervals by the Outing Agent, who makes a written report concerning their health, condition, and progress.

Pupils receive regular wages, a fixed portion going toward their personal expenses and the remainder being deposited in the school bank for them. As sufficient amounts accumulate, interest bearing certificates of deposit are issued and so held until the holders leave school for their homes, or go to higher institutions of learning.

No other branch of the educational work is of so much benefit as the “Outing.” No school can give home training on a small scale as the Indian should learn it in order to become Americanized. In the majority of country homes to which pupils go, they are considered as members of the family and are as carefully trained as are the sons and daughters of the family. Many a “country mother” has kept a hold on an Indian girl for years after her return to the reservation, and through correspondence has fastened the influence of civilized life on the rude homemaking in those isolated spots.

During the past two years, the Outing System has been developed to furnish additional training and experience to students in the various trades which they learn at the school. The young men are placed in shops, and with contractors and manufacturing establishments, where they work side by side with white mechanics, and not only acquire a knowledge of their trade as it is conducted in the “dollar and cents” world, but they also gain a thorough familiarity with the conditions surrounding the American workman; and they learn, as no school can teach them, the significance of a full day’s work.

While out under the Outing in these trades, our students are paid in proportion to the kind of work they do and the ability and skill they manifest in doing it.

Last summer there were nearly one hundred of our young men from the trades’ departments working under these conditions, and in many cases receiving regular journeyman’s wages. A large proportion of this money is saved by the students and is placed to their credit in the bank, at interest, forming a nice nucleus with which to begin life after their school days are over.

Catalogue, United States Indian School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle Indian Press, Printed by Students, 1912.

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