I was reading Critter's blog post about the graves discovered at the rumored "haunted" historic Concho Indian Boarding School in Western Oklahoma yesterday and got to thinking "I grew up near one of these schools." Naturally, curiosity got the better of me and what I learned isn't nearly as shocking as the history reads.

The story begins shortly after the America Civil War... Even though European settlers had been at war with America's native peoples since the 1600s, the US government's "final solution" began in the late 19th century and it started with schools.

The idea was this... Since the government was having so much push-back from the native tribes over relocation and the ceding of tribal lands in the name of progress, the government decided they would lawfully abduct native children and beat and work the native culture out of them all in the name of assimilation education.

While the idea was sold to the tribes as education, it was really a rouse to forcibly remove native culture from America's native people. Kill the spirit, win the mind type of tyrannical brainwashing and stuff.

Enter the federal mandate to build and federally fund the first American Indian boarding schools.

Hugh Pickens (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Hugh Pickens (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Chilocco Indian Agricultural School was one of the original five federally-funded Indian boarding schools in America. Built along the central Oklahoma-Kansas border in the Cherokee Outlet, it was initially opened with the goal of teaching native children how to farm the land. The Cherokee tribe even donated nearly 9,000 acres of land to the school to do so... but that wasn't the point of these schools.

While the idea was sold to the tribes and public as education, it was really a rouse to forcibly remove native culture from America's native people. Kill the spirit, win the mind type of stuff.

From the time it opened in 1884 until the onset of the Great Depression Chilocco was run as intended as a militant reformatory, a practical prison for children. Every student wore the same clothes, was forced to speak English, and barred from speaking their native language or practicing their own culture. Their identities were slowly erased as they were transformed into all-American children. Chilocco even had a basketball team by the early 1900s rumored to constantly beat the bigger university teams they were always matched with.


As a side note, this is well before Hitler ruined the sacred native swastika.

Around the time of the Dust Bowl, elective attendance picked up at the school. Though parents dreaded sending their children to a place like this, they would have food, shelter, and education backed by federal money. Over the course of the 1930s, the focus actually became one of agriculture and education with a less-stern hold on the metaphorical leash.

Chilocco eventually earned a reputation as a very good school and even swelled to 1300 students by the mid-1950s, but as public schools were made more accessible across the country, the need for boarding schools dwindled.

While Chilocco became a premier school for skilled trades and agriculture, a long and dark shadow was cast across the institution in the 1970s. Activists and American Indian organizations shed light on the terrible abuses and treatment of the children in federal care at the school. By the end of the decade, only around 100 students still lived there on campus.

Chilocco Indian Agricultural School was shuttered in 1980 much to the disappointment of those who worked hard to make the school what it became. According to Wikipedia, almost 18,000 students from more than 125 tribes were enrolled in the school over the 96 years it was open. Less than one-third received high school diplomas. Superintendent CC Tillman even said "Chilocco is another in a long list of broken promises." when the doors finally closed.

Since 1980, the historic school has been used for various reasons. The sprawling lands are currently leased to a wind-energy company that built and manages a wind farm there. It was once used as a training facility for federal law enforcement for a while. It was even leased to Scientology for their Narconon substance abuse program for a bit, but the most curious of all uses came in a published statement to residents of nearby Newkirk, OK from the US Department of Homeland Security.

In 2017, DHS published a declaration in the local paper that the government agency would be conducting biological tests at the vacant school.

...in January/February and again in June/July 2018, particles will be released onto buildings of the Chilocco campus. It is to determine how well biological agents will penetrate into single and multi-family homes

DHS reassured the public that the biological testing would be carried out with nontoxic and nonhazardous chemicals, but the public refused to trust it. After all, would you trust the same government that was responsible for the cultural genocide of the Chilocco school system in the first place?

It was such a scandal that DHS came back long after the tests to publish results of further testing, insisting they had proved through their own testing that everything was on the up and up. If anything, it speaks of the American spirit and the oldest of all common cultures, distrust for one's government. If that doesn't give you the prideful fizz, nothing will.

Photo by Hugh Pickens (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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