Some of my ancestors went to Carlisle, although it was by choice for them. They mistakenly thought that learning to speak, read and write English, to learn the ways of the White man and to live that way would make them more accepted. It didn't work, but we weren't allowed to return to the old ways either. They were outlawed, and you could be killed for doing it. So many of my people hid to preserve their way of life. I still have relatives who are afraid of too much association with anyone outside their closed communities. My own father (in the 30's) had to go to an Indian school (Chiloco, in OK) because Indians were not allowed to go to white schools.
I am very active in Native American rights in and out of my tribe. One of the things I am most involved in and is closest to my heart is Native self-awareness. We need to be proud of our heritage and never let anyone ever again tell us that we are less than human. I have many well meaning non-Indian friends who, after seeing Dances With Wolves, said to me that they were sorry about the way the Indian was treated and their loss of the land. But as I try to explain, it was never just about losing the land. It was about losing our identity. In Cherokee we call ourselves A-ni-yun-wi-yi -- "The Real People".
This story hit me hard.