Posts Tagged ‘Chilocco’

Rebirth of Chilocco Indian School

March 27, 2009

While conducting research on Lone Star Dietz in Kansas and Oklahoma, we drove past the long-closed Chilocco Indian School. Seeing that the gate was unlocked, we drove in the lane past cultivated fields, the school’s lake, and eventually into the center of the school’s campus. A caretaker noticed us wandering about and inquired about our presence there. She was puzzled because the gate was supposed to be locked as the grounds were not open to the public. She graciously allowed us to continue looking around.

The school closed its doors and, other than part of it being used by a drug rehabilitation program for some years, it has been fallow since 1980. Ivy has grown over some of the beautiful stone buildings. Decay would make renovating the campus an expensive undertaking, but well worth the investment. After bemoaning the sad state of this beautiful campus for some years, I came across something on the web that caught my eye.

Chilocco, “The Light On The Prairie,” has been deeded over to Council of Confederated Chilocco Tribes (CCCT) which consists of representatives from Kaw Nation, Otoe-Missouri Tribe, Pawnee Nation, Ponca Nation, and Tonkawa Tribe. The outer portions of the campus, consisting of large agricultural fields have been divided up among the five tribes for development . The 165 acres which comprise the central campus are held jointly. The Alumni Association, with a grant from Conoco-Phillips 66 Oil Company, is restoring the cemetery. The CCCT is raising money to be used to restore the buildings and create a museum. The Chilocco campus has been on the National Register of Historic Places for some time and is under consideration for nomination as a National Historic Landmark.

Some Carlisle students, such as Iva Miller (Jim Thorpe’s first wife), faculty and administrators also spent parts of their careers at Chilocco. I first became aware of Iva and Chilocco at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. That story is told in Keep A-goin’: the life of Lone Star Dietz.

Chilocco Indian School campus

Chilocco Indian School campus

Native Americans in 1904 Olympics – Part I

July 16, 2008

News outlets are now getting interested in Native Americans’ participation in past Olympics, so I should share a little of that history in case the media should overlook important contributions. Everyone knows about the incomparable Jim Thorpe’s triumphs in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, but Native Americans were involved much earlier than that. There was too much earlier involvement to cover in one message, so I’ll break this topic into installments beginning with the 1904 games held in St. Louis as part of the World’s Fair (more properly called the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition). Pairing the Olympic Games with a world’s fair was not unusual at the time because the 1900 games were co-located with the Paris World’s Fair. Including events that we moderns wouldn’t consider appropriate as Olympic events wasn’t unusual either.

The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, conducted what must have been the most bizarre athletic contest ever. Some 3,000 native people from around the globe were brought to the fair for the Anthropology Exhibit. These people lived on the fair’s ground in traditional dwellings and wore traditional attire. Finding appropriate food for them presented a bit of a problem. Legend has it that the neighborhood known as Dogtown got its name as being the place Igorots captured a favorite meat. Included in the Anthropology Exhibit were a number of Native Americans who represented several tribes. Adjacent to their tipis was the Model Government Indian School which was populated by Chilocco Indian School students and faculty. Having all these different “primitive” ethnic groups at their disposal was just too tempting for Fair and Olympic organizers.

On August 12 and 13 Ethnology Days were held. The Indian School Journal, which was printed in the Model School, had this to say about those games:

Our Indians Easy Winners

 The athletic games held yesterday for members of the various races in the Anthropology Exhibit furnished one of the most unique entertainments imaginable. A remarkable collection of peoples were gathered together in the Stadium to vie with one another in contests of speed and endurance. There were wild-eyed Ainus, heavy-bearded and gorgeously clad; great, tall lumbering Patagonians; stockily built Moros; slender, tawny-skinned Syrians; long-haired Cocopas, wild and savage of aspect; and last but by no means least, pupils of the Indian School, clad in the conventional athletic habiliments of the white man.

And the winners were:

100-yd dash – 1. George Mentz (Sioux)

120-yd low hurdles – 1. Leon Poitre (Chippewa), 2. George mentz

High jump – 1. George Ments, 2. Black Whitebear

440-yd run – 1. George Mentz, 2. Simon Marques (Pueblo)

Mile run – 1. Black Whitebear

Baseball throw – 2. Frank Moore (Pawnee)

Lone Star Dietz qualified for the finals in the shot put, but apparently did not win the event.

Prizes of $50 or more were given to the winners. Apparently, the Indians did not participate in the mud-throwing and pole climbing events. From the results of these events, AAU Secretary James E. Sullivan, concluded that the results “prove conclusively that the savage is not the natural athlete we have been led to believe.”

The distance-running Pierce brothers and the 1904 Olympics next time.

Ainu at 1904 St. Louis World's Fair

Ainu at 1904 St. Louis World's Fair