The farmhouse on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School grounds will be preserved and not demolished according to the Farmhouse Coalition, a group of Carlisle descendants, relatives and friends.
Army officials at the Carlisle Barracks had scheduled the farmhouse for demolition in 2012 as prior evaluations had asserted that the building played only a “peripheral role” at Carlisle. Native advocates and allies then rallied to defend the legacy of the farmhouse and mounted a petition and public advocacy campaign that brought together relevant research and support for the building.
On April 7 the coalition issued a press release explaining the new plans.
“Officials at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania have announced that a recent study by the Army Corps of Engineers has determined that the farmhouse on post did serve the Carlisle Indian Industrial School from 1887 to 1918,” the coalition stated.
“This study determined that the farmhouse was ‘a significant part of the CIIS, providing food for the school and housing for the farmer and his family, training students to be farmers, and serving as a popular recreational spot for the school,’” states the coalition in the release.
The Army’s recent announcement included the news that the Army Corps of Engineers’ study recommended that the Farmhouse be added to the already existing National Historic Landmark district of the Carlisle campus.
Describing the change of the Army’s position on the farmhouse as a “complete reversal” of its prior plans, farmhouse advocates noted that the building was set to be torn down to make way for family housing on the Barracks grounds, which includes the old school, housing and cemetery.
The prior evaluation of the farmhouse had, for example, recommended it not be included for landmark status, but research by a former resident of the farmhouse, Carolyn Tolman, showed how it was used for both education and recreation for the Native students.
“When descendants of CIIS students learned of its strong ties to the school, strenuous objections were raised through an online petition headed by Dr. Louellyn White, PhD (Akwesasne Mohawk, Assistant Professor, First Peoples Studies, Concordia University). A Farmhouse Coalition was formed to petition the Army as an interested party. Several Native Tribes also voiced their protests, which finally prompted the Army to re-evaluate their decision,” the coalition noted.
As of press time no future plans for the farmhouse were announced, however the Farmhouse Coalition did state that they were engaged in discussions with Barracks officials. Some of the possibilities mentioned were using the site as a visitor’s center dedicated to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School experience, and as a destination for Carlisle descendants who wish to honor their relatives.
“Many Native people feel the farmhouse stands as a monument to Indian survival and has the potential to begin healing the intergenerational trauma caused by Indian residential schooling,” said the Farmhouse Coalition.