On Saturday November 20, My wife and I attended a book signing with Ponca City writer Kim Brumley in Arkansas City for her new book "Chilocco: Memories of a Native American Boarding School" and as part of the event Chilocco Indian Agricultural School was open all Saturday afternoon for visitors to tour the campus.
The school closed in 1980 but we had a chance to talk to Native Americans who had attended school at Chilocco and they told us that during the time period they attended, the school and its employees respected the Native American cultural beliefs and allowed students to speak their languages. Around 1955 the Indian Club was established and it allowed students to practice their beliefs and was open to any student who wished to join.
I've heard of Chilocco all my life but in sixty years I had never seen it, so we took this opportunity to do a three hour walking tour of the campus and photograph it. Take a look at a selection of our photos of Chilocco on Flickr. Here is a short history of the school from Wikipedia.
Chilocco Indian School was an agricultural school for Native Americans located in north-central Oklahoma from 1884 to 1980. It was located approximately 15 miles north of Ponca City, Oklahoma, near the Kansas border. The U.S. Congress in 1882 authorized the construction of a non-reservation boarding school in Oklahoma. Major James A. Haworth, first Superintendent of Indian Schools, selected a site along the Chilocco Creek. The school opened in 1884 and provided vocational education to Native Americans. As the school expanded, additional structures were added in 1893, 1899, 1903, 1909, 1923, 1931 and 1932. In the 1960s, several of the older buildings were demolished to make room for a new dormitory and machine shop. The school's facilities at one time included more than 100 buildings, including a dining hall and hospital.
The curriculum at the school focused on agricultural trades, including horseshoeing and blacksmithing, but also included building trades, printing, shoe repair, tailoring, leather work, and in later years plumbing, electrical work, welding, auto mechanics, food services and office education. The Chilocco School closed in June 1980 when the U.S. Congress ceased funding. In the school's 1980 yearbook, Superintendent C. C. Tillman wrote, "Chilocco is another in a long list of broken promises."
The school's land was granted land interest to five local tribes as the Chilocco Development Authority; the Kaw Nation (.10 mineral interest), the Otoe-Missouria Tribe (.10 mineral interest), the Pawnee Nation (.10 mineral interest), the Ponca Nation (.10 mineral interest), the Tonkawa Tribe (.10 mineral interest) and the Cherokee Nation (.50 mineral interest) hold no surface interest after the school closed. Between 1989 and 2001, the property was leased to Narcanon, which operated a substance abuse rehabilitation center at the site. As of 2008, the property was vacant.
The campus is really huge covering over 8,000 acres. All of the original buildings on the campus are constructed out of limestone quarried from the property. Most of the damage to the properties appears to be roof damage and the buildings themselves are very imposing, enduring, and lasting. There is a good story and map of Chilocco at Abandoned Oklahoma.
Enjoy the photos.