Independent Lens “Home from School: The Children of Carlisle”


Premieres Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 8 p.m.

“Home From School: The Children of Carlisle” explores the history of Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the first off-reservation government-funded boarding school for Native American children. The film chronicles the modern-day journey of Northern Arapaho tribal members seeking to recover the remains of Arapaho children more than 100 years after they fell mortally ill and were buried on the school grounds. That cemetery is now located on land owned by the U.S. Army War College. The driving force behind the repatriation efforts is Yufna Soldier Wolf, great-granddaughter of Sharp Nose, the last War Chief of the Northern Arapaho. One of Sharp Nose’s sons, a great uncle to Yufna Soldierwolf, died at Carlisle in 1883.

The film follows Northern Arapaho tribal members — elders and teenagers — as they travel from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming to Pennsylvania to retrieve the remains of three children who died at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the 1880s. During this era at Carlisle, Native American children were stripped of their tribal identities and forced into an English-only, military-style remedial education. Many boarding school students returned to their tribes emotionally scarred and culturally unrooted; their trauma has echoed down the generations. Many other students, however, never returned home, having died at school, often of European-introduced diseases, their bodies could not fend off.

Filmmaker Geoffrey O’Gara travels alongside the tribal members as they visit the Carlisle burial site of the children they lost. The efforts of the Northern Arapaho are further stymied during this visit when graves are misidentified, and the wrong remains disturbed.

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