THE PROBLEM WITH THE LUCY PRETTY EAGLE "GHOST" STORY.

TAKE THE TAIL - (also known as) Lucy Pretty Eagle



Take the Tail came to the Indian school from the Rosebud Agency during the early days of  Carlisle.  She was ten years old, the daughter of  Pretty Eagle, when she stepped off the train November 14, 1883.  According to Luther Standing Bear's book, My People, the Sioux, those first groups of children to come to the Indian School from the Rosebud, were given European names.  Take the Tail's Christian name became "Lucy" after her arrival to Carlisle.  "Lucy" had only been at the school one short winter before she passed away March 9, 1884.  According to her student folder found in the National Archives, (NARA Record Group 75, File 1327) she had not been in good health on arrival to Carlisle.  Because hers is the first grave at Indian Cemetery at the Carlisle Barracks,  Take the Tail's story lends itself to high drama.   In the school newspapers, Pretty Eagle's response to the news of his daughter's passing was published.  He wrote that "she had died the year before but had come back to life again."

For many years, Carlisle Barracks' tour booklets mis-identified the old teachers' quarters as student housing and it was believed that the small girls had roomed there.   Known as the Coren  Apartments, these former teachers' quarters are still in use as housing for students of the US Army War College.  During the Indian School days, the girls' dormitory occupied the area directly across the yard from the teachers' quarters, where the tennis courts now stand. 

For several decades, there have been rumors that Take the Tail haunts the rooms of the Coren Apartments . . . when in truth, Indian girls never lived there.   It was not until 1996 that research using old postcards clarified the Coren Apartments' real use (as teachers' quarters) during the days of the Carlisle Indian School. Stories of tennis shoes found mysteriously tied together after a restless night, pictures rearranged on the walls, cooking smells wafting from an empty kitchen, and doors opening and closing in the quarters believed to have been Lucy's home over a hundred years ago . . . still persist.   Students stationed at the War College within the past several decades insist their quarters are haunted by "Lucy". 

In a Scholastic, Inc. book from the popular "Dear America" series,  My Heart is on the Ground, Ann Rinaldi has fashioned a story around a central character, Lucy Pretty Eagle, modeled after a fictitious, romantised version of Take the Tail.  The popularity of this book reminds us that not only was Indian identity shaped by non-Indians during the four decades of Carlisle, Indian identity continues to be defined by non-Indian writers today.   These Lucy Pretty Eagle stories embody the one-dimensional Indian stereotypes that so influence our ideas about who Indians really are.  Until the stories are written by Indian people themselves, these stereotypes will persist.

As a consequence of the Carlisle Barracks' favorite ghost story,  visitors to Indian Cemetery will occasionally find mementos lovingly placed at the stone bearing the name "Lucy Pretty Eagle".  Ironically, there is a child buried in the cemetery who was detailed to the teachers' quarters.  If anyone is haunting the old teachers quarters it's not likely to be Lucy Pretty Eagle, but more likely the girl who was assigned to work there.


 
The Teachers' Quarters of the Carlisle Indian School - Coren Apartments today.
Looking west from the superintendent's quarters (now Quarters 2) the two-story teachers' quarters are on the left.  Today, there is a plaque on the end of this building (Coren Apartments) mis-identifying it as the girls' dormitory of the Carlisle Indian School.
The Girls' Quarters of the Carlisle Indian School - just north of the band stand.

This is the same view, from the superintendent's quarters looking west toward what was the girls' dormitory.  It was attached to Thorpe Hall (the gymnasium).  The girls dormitory no longer stands, but it took up the footprint of what are now the tennis courts.  Note: the girls' dormitory was a three-story building, and was the only girls' residence on the campus of the Carlisle Indian School.  There were two facilities for the boys, neither of which exist today. 


 
 
Questions to Think About....

  If you've read My Heart is on the Ground, or have heard about the Lucy Pretty Eagle ghost story......

  • Had you ever heard of Lucy Pretty Eagle before, and if so, in what context? As a ghost story?
  • When you visit an archive or library, and you are handed a bibliography of suggested readings, do you consider the authenticity of the publications listed in that bibliography?
  • What purpose is served by fictionalizing the life of a child who died at an Indian school and is buried in a cemetery with 186 other children from dozens of American Indian nations?  Is it respectful to assume the poetic names found in such a cemetery speak to you?
  • Why is it easier to imagine Lucy haunted Carlisle, than it is to imagine the true impact Carlisle had on Lucy and her schoolmates?
  • When you speak about Indian people and their respective cultures, do you find yourself using language that identifies them as part of the past, or as part of the present?
  • Where are American Indian communities located today?  How many federally-recognized Indian tribes can you name?  How are they governed?
  • There has been a lot of discussion about revisionist history lately.  What is revisionist history?  Should history always tell the truth?  Is the Lucy Pretty Eagle ghost story revisionist history?
  • The Carlisle Indian School included printing as part of the industrial curriculum.  As a consequence, monthly and weekly newspapers were widely distributed by subscription.  Who was the targeted audience of these publications, and what purposes did they serve?  Would you consider these publications to be revisionist history?

 

Carlisle Indian Industrial School