Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bloomfield Academy 1852 -1939

My mother attended the Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw and Choctaw girls in the 20's, and even though the history of Bloomfield is not all good, it is a bright spot in our nation's history, and something for us to be proud of.

Bloomfield was founded by a Methodist Missionary named John Harpole Carr, who together with his wife founded the school in 1852. The original location of Bloomfield was near Achille, Indian Territory, right across the Red River from Denison, Texas. The Chickasaws had not yet won their independence from the Choctaws in 1852, but they had control of their own funds, so they appropriated money to match the support given by the Missionary board for the school.

Reverend Carr was a carpenter, and he built the original buildings for Bloomfield himself, and he also operated a farm to supply food for the students and teachers. The name Bloomfield came from Jackson Kemp, a former Chickasaw Chief, from a letter he wrote to Carr in 1852. Carr was camped in a field of wild flowers at the time, working to construct the school's buildings. His letter was addressed simply to Rev. John Carr, "Bloomfield."

Bloomfield was confiscated by Confederate troops during the Civil War, and the school was shut down, but after the War it was reopened and its operation was taken over by the tribe. From then until the tribal governments were abolished by the Curtis Act in 1898, the school flourished.

The goals set by the tribal legislature were that the education at Bloomfield should "be carried on in a manner that would reflect honor on the Nation, besides conferring a lasting good upon the rising generation … and in their belief we ask the help and support of every sober thinking mind of our country. Let us inaugurate schools that will elevate our children to an equal footing with our white brethren."  

Footnote: Listening to Our Grandmothers' Stories, by Amanda Cobb Greetham 

The tribe established high standards for Bloomfield from the start. Enrollment was capped at 45 and only one child per family was allowed to attend. Students had to be able to read and write before they were admitted. Full bloods were recruited for Bloomfield, and students were given a subsidy of $10 per month so that even poor students could attend.

Future Chickasaw Governor Douglas Johnston was superintendant from 1882 until 1896. The students at Bloomfield were known as the Bloomfield Blossoms, and they received an education equal to that of any women in white society. The Chickasaw Nation provided the school with an excellent library. The curriculum included logic, chemistry, astronomy, botany in addition to more traditional reading, writing, arithmetic, geog, grammar, history, physiology, rhetoric, government, philosophy, American literature, composition, mythology, and latin. They also received instruction in art, painting, piano, guitar, mandolin, violin, banjo, and singing. The school had an orchestra, a glee club, a literary society and a basketball team. The girls received a diploma on graduation and were authorized to teach in any tribal school. Bloomfield became known as Bryn Mawr of the West.

 After the Chickasaw government was abolished in 1898, Bloomfield came under the control of the federal government even though it was still supported by Chickasaw funds. Bloomfield was transformed from a finishing school into a trade school. The government's goals for Indian schools were to prepare children for trades, and to erase their Indian identity. Speaking the Chickasaw language was forbidden. The passage of the Dawes Act was celebrated as a holiday, and the girls put on patriotic plays, and sang patriotic songs. The number of grades was cut to 8, and the curriculum was altered to include domestic arts, cleaning, gardening, animal care, and nutrition. Students were required to maintain the school grounds.  

Federal administration of the Chickasaw estate was corrupt. The first federal Superintendent of Indian Schools, John Benedict, was so clever in managing tribal funds that by the time he was fired for incompetency he had amassed enough of a fortune to start his own bank.   

Footnote: And Still the Waters Run, Angie Debo. P 66.

For a while, Indian families refused to send their children to the new schools and Bloomfield was closed for a while. In 1917 it was reopened with a new administrator, Eleanor Allen, who followed the federal mandates but reestablished high standards for the school. She remained superintendant until 1936, and it was during her tenure, in 1926 - 7, that my mother was a student there.   

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chickasaw Education Under the White Man


                           Chilocco Indian Agricultural School
                                            1882 - 1980

Ever since before the Removal, there were many white people who abhorred the mistreatment of the Indians: the invasion of their territory by land hungry settlers, the violation of their treaties, the failure of the government to provide education. The list was long. Many religious groups, philanthropists, and other well meaning white citizens sympathized with the Indian.  

Before the Removal, Thomas McKenney, a deeply religious man, served as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He advocated for the Indians education and integration into white society, but faced with the onslaught of settlers and the hostility of state governments, he eventually recommended the Indians' Removal. After the threats of the treaty commissioners had failed, McKenney approached the Chickasaw with respect and words of persuasion:  

Brothers - Whilst then you cherish a sacred remembrance for the bones of your Fathers, forget not to provide for your children, and never stop a moment, but hasten with all speed to place them in a situation that will secure them against the evils that your Fathers endured … This Brothers is Wisdom. The past I know has been cloudy and dark enough, but, brothers, be not discouraged. The Great Spirit will yet open your way. 

Footnote: The Chickasaws, Arrell Gibson, P 166 - 167

McKenney purported to understand the Chickasaw and to know what was best for them, but to me his words still sound like a threat, and they sound patronizing. But he didn't really understand. He wasn't evicted from a homeland where his people had lived for hundreds of years. And he wasn't part of a culture of which the land was an integral part. His words didn't move the Chickasaws either. They waited another 12 years before signing the Treaty of Doaksville with the Choctaws agreeing to remove to Indian Territory as a last resort.  

From the end of the Civil War in 1866 until the passage of the Curtis Act in 1898, a period of about 30 years, the Chickasaws and the other Five Civilized Tribes governed themselves, and they developed an education system for their children equal or superior to that of any state in the west. The Chickasaw Nation operated neighborhood elementary schools, several "academies," which were the equivalent of high schools, and each year they sent 60 to 100 students away to college. By 1880 the literacy rate among the Chickasaw was 60%.

Footnote: The Chickasaws, Arrell Gibson, P 281

Meanwhile, the other tribes were at the mercy of the federal and state governments. President Grant, who appointed Quaker missionaries as his Indian agents, also formed three cavalry regiments to subdue the remaining plains Indian tribes. General George Custer was one of the Civil War officers who volunteered to help accomplish this mission. The government had decided that the land in the west, once considered useless for settlement, was still too good for the Indian. So the soldiers rounded up the tribes, confined them to reservations, and turned their education over to the Quakers. 

During the time after the Civil War there was a resurgence of interest in the welfare of the Indians. Groups such as the Womens' National Indian Association, The Indian Rights Association, and The Friends of the Indian met, discussed the Indians' problems, sent out teams of investigators, and made recommendations. President Grant appointed many of these leaders to a Board of Indian Commissioners which advised him on how to deal with the Indian "problem." His Commission decided that Indians should be taught English, religion, farming and trades to make them self sufficient. Then they were to be given allotments of land and their annuities ended. This would end the expense of the reservations, and make available huge tracts of land for white settlement. There would be no more need for conflicts and treaties with Indian tribes. The Indians would be successfully integrated into "white" society.

For all their good intentions, all that these benevolent groups did was provide the government with a rationale for what they intended to do already: destroy the Indians' tribal bonds, their age old cultures, and their basic beliefs, in order to give their land to white settlers. The various groups, the Friends of the Indians, and others, continued to meet, blaming the Indians' troubles on mishandling by the government, but they all ended by endorsing the government's programs.

The irony of all this discussion about what was in the best interest of the Indian was that never was an Indian included in the discussion. Really. It wasn't until the 1970's that President Richard Nixon, recognizing that the Native American culture still survived, and that the government still had an obligation under the old treaties, proposed a new Indian policy under which the Indian tribes themselves could be authorized to administer federal
programs for their own benefit, but back to the 1800's.

Footnote: The Great Father, Paul Prucha, P 364. 

The government's plan involved separating the Indian children from their families in order to immerse them in white culture. In 1840 the government, in partnership with the Methodist Church, established a boarding school in Kansas for Indian children called a manual labor academy. It was modeled after similar schools in Europe which were designed to teach poor children to accept their station in life. Children from many tribes including Shawnee, Delaware, Kansas, Peoria, Potawatomie, Wyandot, and Ottawa were taken from their homes and sent to this and other boarding schools. This type of school was to became a model for Indian education for almost a century.
Listening to Our Grandmothers' Stories, Amanda Cobb-Greetham.

The idea was to separate the children from their parents and from their cultures, to teach them to speak English, and to accept white cultural values. The boys were taught farming and trades and the girls were taught domestic skills. Ezra Hayt, Commissioner of Indian affairs in 1877 summarized the so called benefits of these schools:
the exposure of children who attend only day schools to the demoralization and degradation of an Indian home neutralized the efforts of the schoolteacher, especially those efforts which are directed to the advancement of in morality and civilization.

The Great Father, Paul Prucha, P 233.

By 1890 there were 7000 Indian children in boarding schools, often far away from their homes. By 1900 it was clear that the boarding schools were a failure. Many were run like reform schools, using the Indian children as free labor, without teaching them anything useful. As soon as they were able, the children returned to their homes. It wasn't until 1928 that a study was done condemning Indian boarding schools. It showed that the schools were providing poor diets, and inadequate medical care. They were overcrowded, underfunded, and they provided poor education with too much emphasis on labor. The study, the Meriam report, led to some reforms, but not to the end of the schools.

The study's recommendation was that Indian children be integrated into public schools.  This practice, which had actually been going on for some time, started receiving government support, but it was a failure before it started. The Indian children faced prejudice and social isolation, and became underachievers and dropouts.

My grandfather, William H. Paul, and his brother, Smith W. "Buck" Paul, were educated mainly in white schools even though they completed their schooling before the Curtis Act abolished the Chickasaw government in 1898. An early
history of Oklahoma described my grandfather's education:

Receiving the rudiments of his education in the schools of White Bead, Wm H Paul subsequently continued his studies at the Tishomingo Academy, under the instructions of Judge Benjamin Carter, at Savoy Texas, at Austin College, and at Sherman Texas.

From what my mother told me, Uncle Buck went to the same schools as my grandfather.

Footnote: The History of the State of Oklahoma, Luther B  Hill, 1910.

These schools were run by white men. My grandfather's father, Sam Paul, was very progressive in his thinking, and he believed that the Chickasaws' future lay in integration into the white culture. That's the reason my grandparents met. They both attended a subscription school together in Pauls Valley. My grandmother's father had come west from Georgia after the Civil War and settled in Indian Territory, possibly at the invitation of my great grandfather Sam Paul, who actively recruited white settlers to come into the area.

My grandfather and his brother were sent to boarding schools for much of their education. My mother said that her father told her that he and Buck ran away several times, only to be taken back to the school by their father, Sam Paul. They must have attended one of the Chickasaw boarding schools, because the boys were all Indian, and my grandfather described how difficult it was for those who couldn't speak English, which was forbidden, even then. He liked to tell the story of a young Chickasaw boy who wrote a letter home to his parents. The boys' were required to write only in English. The boy was trying to tell his parents about one of his classmates who got a fatal case of diarrhea from eating green apples. His letter came out: "Little boy, green apple, shoot the shoot, dead."

The other story my grandfather told about his boarding school education concerned a teacher, who was a white man and apparently treated his Indian pupils with contempt, calling them "little Indian pups." When my great grandfather Sam Paul found out about this he caught the teacher on his way home from school, pulled him from his horse and whipped him with his buggy whip. As my grandmother used to say: "If you don't like Indians you shouldn't be living in Indian country," but this was before the Curtis Act.  

Even though my grandfather and his brothers faced prejudice, they were educated during the time of Chickasaw sovereignty, and they each got the equivalent of a college education. As long as the governments of the Five Civilized Tribes were able to control their own education system, they provided their young people with the opportunity to become educated and to compete with the white settlers who were coming to the Territory in increasing numbers.


Bloomfield Academy, 1900

Many Indian boarding schools survived well into the 20th century and my mother attended one of them, the Bloomfield Academy for girls in Ardmore, Oklahoma. I'll share some of her experiences there in my next post.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chickasaw Education, the Golden Age, 1867 - 1898

For information about Chickasaw education during earlier periods see posts of Jan. 16, and Jan. 29, 2012.


                                        Mississippia Paul Hull

During the Civil War Chickasaw society was disrupted, and the Nation's schools were closed. The Chickasaw Nation officially supported the Confederacy, but many wanted no part of the white man's war. Soon after the war started, the Confederate army took over Indian Territory and occupied Fort Arbuckle. My great great grandfather Smith Paul had the foresight to move away from the fort before the war started. He moved west, into the vicinity of what is now Paul's Valley. As my great aunt Sippia put it:

Just before the war broke out he had made a trip to the locality and realized that it was a wonderful place for farming. Very soon he had a home built for us, it was of hewed logs. The house was built of single rooms but close together …. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the friendly plains Indians came around the locality where my father had his farm. They were the Comanches, Caddos, Apaches, Cheyenne, Osages, and I think some Delawares. One mixed band located at Cherokee Town, another on my father's farm, a band of Osage across the river, and a band of Caddo Indian under old lady White Bead, five miles up the river. And the government realized that they must do something with and for these Indians, so they appointed my father as an agent, to issue them rations. This was one reason that my father did not have to go to war.  

So Smith Paul was appointed by the Confederacy, as Indian agent supplying rations to the plains Indians living the vacinity of his farm.

My great great grandmother Ela Teecha's older children, Tecumseh McClure and Catherine Waite, along with Ellen's brother Ja-Pawnee, went to Kansas with their families during the Civil War. They stayed with the Sauk and Fox tribe which remained unaffiliated with either North or South.

Aunt Sippia described her life during the war between the states:

During the Civil War we had to spin and weave all of our cloth, to make our clothes, and knit our hose. I was anxious to do what everyone else did and they let me, although I was only about nine years old, I wove enough cloth to make me a dress, even though it looked rather knottie, they made me a dress out of it. The cotton from which we spun the thread had to be picked from the seeds with our fingers, we usually did this work at night. The pecans grew in this locality in great abundance as they do today, and we ate nuts and picked the cotton off the seeds and my mother would tell us Indian legends. We learned by putting the cotton down by the fire and getting it warm, it was much easier to get the seeds out. It was during those early days that a man came through the country with what he called a miniature gin, similar to a cloths ringer of today, and this helped us to get the seeds out faster. Of course people came in to see how it worked and everyone wanted to try and turn the handle and my brother, boy like turned it and broke the handle off. My mother used to make straw hats for the boys out of wheat straw and in the winter they would catch coons and she would make them caps out of the skins. My father would make us shoes out of cow hide, he could do a little of everything, but this was only in war times. How I disliked them, and how glad I was when we could buy shoes ready made.

This is the kind of practical education Aunt Sippia got during the war. I wish she we could hear some of the stories her mother told her.

After the Civil War, the Chickasaw government was reorganized, and under the leadership of Governor Cyrus Harris a new constitution was written outlawing slavery. In 1867, with $65,700 released by the federal government from the Chickasaw trust fund, the Chickasaw Nation established 11 neighborhood schools. In 1876 that number was increased to 23, and also four academies, Bloomfield for girls, Wapanucka coed, Chickasaw Male Academy, and the Lebanon Orphan school were opened. These schools were operated by Chickasaw citizens, and most of the teachers were Chickasaw. The Chickasaw government provided $3 per student per month for the neighborhood schools, $200 per student annually for students at the academies, and $350 per student per year for 60 to 100 students selected to pursue higher education in the states.

This period of Chickasaw independence has been referred to as the "Golden Age" of Chickasaw education. At this time the Chickasaw educational system surpassed that of all the other tribes, and that of the whites in neighboring states. By 1880 60% of Chickasaws could read and write. Bloomfield Academy was known as the Bryn Mawr of the West.

There were also missionary schools at this time. The Pierce Institute in White Bead, and Hargrove College in Ardmore were operated by the Methodists, and St. Elizabeth's Academy for girls was opened by the Catholic Church near Purcell.

Footnote: The Chickasaws, Arrell Gibson. P 280. 

In addition to the Chickasaw government schools and the mission schools, some Chickasaw communities hired their own teachers. Aunt Sippia told about her father hiring a teacher for her and her brothers after the war:

For quite a while after the war, we were the only settlers in this section of the country. My father hired us a private teacher. It was not easy to get teachers to come and live on this frontier, so our education was quite limited.

It was during this time that the federal government was forcing the plains tribes onto reservations. Ulysses S. Grant, the first President after the Civil War, was approached by representatives of the Quaker church asking him to let them establish missions on these reservations so they could convert the Indians. President Grant's response was:

If you can make Quakers out of these Indians it will take the fight out of them. Let us have peace.

Grant appointed many Quakers as Indian agents, and also missionaries from other denominations. The Quaker Laurie Tatum was appointed agent to the Comanches and Kiowas near Fort Sill, and my great aunt Sippia attended his school. Here is her description:

At the early age of sixteen I was married to Jim Arnold, a Texan, and one little girl was born to us, named Tamsie. After five years I was left a widow. Knowing they had a school for Indians at Fort Sill, I decided to go up there to school. I boarded with a Mexican woman who had been ransomed and married and raised a family. She was ransomed by a soldier by the name of Chandler who afterwards married her. I took my little girl along with me and Mrs. Chandler took care of her while I attended school. While I was there I met William Hull, an Englishman, who was employed to work for the government to work under the Indian agent Tatum. After he met me he decided to come down and live near my father. He was a professional blacksmith. This was on the main travel road of the freighters to Fort Sill and Fort Cobb. He accumulated quite a fortune at that business. Then we were married.

The practice by some of the plains tribes of taking hostages deserves some explanation. The Comanche, Wichita, Cheyenne and others would raid farms in what is now Texas - then Mexico - and take horses and hostages. They traded both among themselves, and often asked for ransoms for the hostages, usually children. Chickasaw hunters played a role in ransoming some of the hostages in those early days after the Removal. Some of the hostages were treated like slaves and some were accepted as members of the tribe. The mother of the famous Comanche Chief Quanah Parker had originally been a hostage. When given a chance to rejoin her white family, she chose to remain with the Comanche. See my post of 2/12/2011, Nadua, Cynthia Ann Parker

Back to Aunt Sippia's story:

The school I attended in Fort Sill was under the supervision of the Quakers. Of course I attended their church, it all seemed strange to me, for when they went in the church they usually sang a song first, then they sat and waited for the spirit to move them. Sometimes someone would pray or talk and then again there were times when no one would either talk or pray, they would sit quietly for a while and then leave.

While my father was not such a religious man he realized that we must have the uplifting influence of having the gospel preached. So he hired a preacher by the year by the name of E. Couch from Texas, to preach to us regularly every Sunday, he made his home with us. By that time there were more people living in this part of the country but miles and miles apart, but they would come to this service and my father and mother always arranged to have a splendid meal for the entire congregation, as that was one of the pleasant occasions that we looked forward to. Then later my father built a frame church himself, having the lumber freighted from Atoka. J.M. Hamill, Superintendent of Colbert School and pastor at Ft. Arbuckle also preached to us.

The Colbert School was one of the original Chickasaw Academies. It was a boys' school.

It is remarkable to me how these people, with their own culture and traditions, so recently uprooted from their homeland and having to rebuild their society on the frontier, had the desire and the foresight to see the value of education in preparing their children to compete in white society. Aunt Sippia sent her oldest daughter Tamsie to Liverpoole, England. to school. I don't know much about the education that Tecumseh McClure provided for his children, but his sister Catherine went to great lengths to educate hers. Fred Waite, her oldest son was sent to finishing school in Bentonville Ark.. He later attended Illinois Industrial University in Champaign, Illinois, and Mound City Commercial College in St Louis, Mo. Fred Waite later became Attorney General of the Chickasaw Nation. Fred's younger brother Amos was also educated in the East, and he returned home to start the first subscription school in Pauls Valley in about 1890. Subscription schools were private schools for which parents paid a fee for their children to attend. Catherine Waite also educated her daughters. After her husband's death in 1874 she moved with her younger daughters to Oberlin, Ohio, so that they could attend college there.


                   Thomas and Catherine Waite and Three of Their Daughters