© 2023 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY · WNPR
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Carlisle Indian Industrial School forced Native American children to assimilate

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Now to StoryCorps. Growing up as part of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin, Kirby Metoxen heard stories about his grandparents being sent to a boarding school in Pennsylvania. The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was one of hundreds of schools with forced assimilation programs designed to strip Native children of their culture. Parents who resisted could be imprisoned.

In 2017, Kirby visited the old school, now an Army base. He remembered that day with his friend, Father Rodger Patience.

KIRBY METOXEN: As we went through the gates, we asked, what remnants are left of the boarding school? They said, the cemetery. So as we were walking through, I'm seeing the headstones of the children that passed here, imagining a child far from home, not knowing where they are, getting sick, wanting their mom and dad but being alone. If that was me, I'd - I wouldn't want to be alone. And I thought, if I can get these kids home, that's all I would need.

RODGER PATIENCE: Yeah. How long did the process take?

METOXEN: Two years, three years, at least - and I remember, we had been invited to come into the tent and view the remains. Part of me wanted to run the other way. But I thought, out of respect for them children, I will come in. I recall taking a breath and then the emotions coming out like it was my own child. You know, we were able to track down family members of the children. But there's one orphan, Ophelia Powless. And I said, you know, my grandmother was a Powless, so I will be claiming Ophelia as a relative.

PATIENCE: How do you feel after bringing them home?

METOXEN: I drive by our church, and I can see the headstone of Ophelia almost every day. It will probably be one of my proudest accomplishments in this lifetime.

MARTINEZ: That was Kirby Metoxen with Father Rodger Patience at StoryCorps. There are hundreds of graves at the Carlisle boarding school. Six of them belong to the families from the Oneida Nation. All are expected to return home. The U.S. Interior Department is investigating the abuse of Indigenous children at boarding schools. This conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRIS ZABRISKIE'S "THE TEMPERATURE OF THE AIR ON THE BOW OF THE KALEETAN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jey Born

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.