OpenGLAM Pick of the Week: Indian School Journal and the records of the Chilocco Indian School

OpenGLAM Pick of the Week showcases handpicked digitised cultural artefacts made available by Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums from around the world under an open license. This week’s Pick of the Week was selected by guest curator  Dominic McDevitt-Parks.

“Photograph of a School Room,” Chilocco Indian School (NARA ID 2745588)

My pick this week is not a well-known work or by a well-known artist. Instead, I want to highlight a group of documents that demonstrates how opening up access to our cultural record is not just a boon for fans of the arts, but for shedding light on neglected aspects of history. The Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, founded in 1884 by an act of Congress and in operation for more than a century, was a primary and vocational school in Oklahoma for Native Americans. Because it was part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a U.S. federal agency, its records are in the public domain and are now housed at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s Fort Worth, Texas regional archival facility.

The records include photographs of classes, sports, and the campus from 1909–1915. One set of  grade books[1] shows students in 1936 taking classes like English, physics, and music alongside farm accounts and rural sociology, and other grade books[2] show marks for personal cleanliness. There are detailed attendance records, showing the tribal affiliation of all the students.[3] And the transfer records report data showing that students ranged from full-blooded to as little as 1/16 native; that students had names like Fred Tyler and Mildred Buffalo Chief, some with additional “Indian names” listed (Mildred’s was “Afraid of Moon”); and that it was far more rare than one might imagine in the 20th century for a student’s two parents to both be living.[4]

“The Journal: Aspires to be an organ that will contain matter of interest to the Indian people of the entire country and to all other persons who desire to keep in sympathetic touch with this much misrepresented and misunderstood race.”[6]

Most fascinating of all are the records of the Indian School Journal, a magazine printed by Chilocco students under the supervision of school officials, which covered news and events related to the school’s goings-on and the lives of current and former students, as well as articles from academics and government officials about Native American life, education, and governance. Articles ranged from poems; to vocational topics like “The Selection of a Good Cow;”[7] to more academic or philosophical essays, like “Subjects for Language Lessons: Second and Third Grade;”[8] to religious topics, like a Navajo translation of the Apostle’s Creed.[9] There are also more mundane—but enlightening from a historical perspective—news items from the Chilocco community, such as “A letter has been received from Rufus Bushybead, Class ’20, he is located at Oil Hill, Kansas stating he is sulsessfully[sic] playing the ‘white man’s game.’”[10]

See more:

Dominic McDevitt-Parks is the former Wikipedian in Residence at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. He is currently the volunteer Cultural Partnerships Coordinator for the Wikimedia District of Columbia chapter.

Notes:

1 Indian School Journal, Vol. 20 (index), (NARA ID 2745588) 2 Gradebook of the Chilocco School (NARA ID 2745162) 3 Gradebook of the Chilocco School (NARA ID 2745163) 4 Report of Attendance by Tribes, 1910-1925 (NARA ID 2745332) 5 Descriptive Statement of Children, 1895-1897 (NARA ID 2745159) 6 Indian School Journal, Vol. 11, 05/1911, page 3 (NARA ID 2745507) 7 Indian School Journal, Vol. 14, 12/1913, page 162 (NARA ID 2745534) 8 Indian School Journal, Vol. 19, no. 6, 2/1919, page 218 (NARA ID 2745571) 9 Indian School Journal, Vol. 8, no. 2, 12/1907, page 43 (NARA ID 2745464) 10 Indian School Journal, Vol. 20, no. 9, 10/1920, page 265 (NARA ID 2745581)

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