Backed by the US federal government, the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania wrenched children from their families and banned them from speaking their own language. The photos show young men and women in traditional clothing next to comparison snaps taken just three years later showing them in smart suits and dresses with western-style haircuts. The images were taken at Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, US, which focused on rapid assimilation of Native Americans to western culture.
Founded in 1879 by Captain Henry Pratt under the authority of the US federal government, Carlisle was a boarding school where Pratt infamously attempted to “Kill the Indian: Save the Man” through any means necessary. It is estimated that more than 10,000 Native American children attended Carlisle between 1879 and 1918. Students were forbidden from speaking their own language, their hair was cut and they had to be dressed in suits, ties and corseted dresses.
They often didn’t go home for years and were taught trades, such as baking and blacksmithing, designed to give them a foothold in the white world after graduation. Photographer John Choate took pictures of scores of Carlisle students before and after they went to the school – to demonstrate the transformation they underwent there.
Student known as White Buffalo soon after he arrived in Carlisle in 1881, left, and some time after dressed in a suit.
Young Native American Thomas Moore, before and after assimilation, circa 1897.
Tom Torlino before in 1883 and with a trimmed western hair in 1886.
Four Native American children taken in 1880, just a year after the Carlisle Indian School opened.
A group of Navajo Native American students in 1882 were when they first arrived and a snap taken years later.
Three Sioux indians as they arrived at the Carlisle Indian School in 1883 and an after snap taken years later.
A group of Chiricahua Apaches after arriving from a prison camp in 1887 and a later shot showing them in western-style clothes.