CONAM chair visits Carlisle’s buried children on Memorial Day

Carlisle Indian Industrial School MarkerSandra Cianciulli, who chairs the Eastern PA Conference’s Committee on Native American Ministry (CONAM), is featured in two recent newspaper articles about the Memorial Day pilgrimage she and others make annually to the Carlisle War College and Army Barracks cemetery in Carlisle, Pa. That’s where they remember and honor the nearly 200 Native American children buried at the site of the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Thousands of American Indian children were taken to that school and others more than a century ago to be forcibly acculturated to mainstream American life by white teachers and administrators. Many never survived the experience to return home.

Sandra CiancuilliCianciulli and her committee led the 2015 Eastern PA Annual Conference in a poignant ceremony to remember the children buried at Carlisle. She returns there each Memorial Day because of her family connections to the place and also because she is a board member of the Circle Legacy Center, a Native American cultural events program in Lancaster.

“The Carlisle school grounds and cemetery are always going to be sacred to us” Cianciulli told a reporter, “because that’s where Indian history changed forever.”

What do visitors do when they visit the cemetery, especially those who have ancestors buried there?

“It depends on what people want to do to express their feelings,” Cianciulli told a Carlisle Sentinel reporter. “We had a young girl one year write a poem and do a dance. We have had groups so small that we have just stood by the gate holding hands and we each speak. It is different every year because different people express things differently.”

Read more of her comments in two articles, and learn about a different kind of Memorial Day observance, where faithful pilgrims pay homage to young Native heroes.

Top photo used by permission of Jake Austin,  The Sentinel.