In 1884, the Chilocco Indian School opened just twenty miles north of Ponca City. At the time, it was one of the largest federally funded boarding schools for Native American youth in the country. Now, a new documentary focusing on the schools nearly 100-year history premieres at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 28 on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA).
The first class at Chilocco were offered a half academic, half vocational curriculum focused on assimilating Native students into the dominant culture. Through the years, the school saw many changes, from a militaristic experience more akin to a boot camp, to a school whose Native students and alumni fought to keep it open.
This documentary is just one component of the Chilocco History Project, a three-year collaborative effort between the CNAA and the Oklahoma State University Library’s Oklahoma Oral History Research Program (OOHRP). Visiting Assistant Professor Julie Pearson-Little Thunder; OOHRP Head and Hyle Family Endowed Professor Sarah Milligan; and CNAA Veterans Project Committee members Charmain Baker, Jim Baker, Betty Pino and Bill Pino spearheaded the initiative.
“The documentary examines this powerful site of memory, not just for the school’s alumni, but for anyone willing to explore this country’s complex history with Native peoples,” said Milligan. “The timing for this Chilocco National Alumni Association (CNAA) partnership is critical, as the historic campus has deteriorated in the 40 years since the school’s closing. Without intervention, the only experience possible with this historic space will be through recorded history.”
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