ARKANSAS CITY, Kan.
About 300 alumni of a tribal school that taught generations of American Indians along the Kansas-Oklahoma boarder gathered Sunday to celebrate its recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places.
The former Chilocco Indian School opened its doors again to former students, employees, tribal leaders and Oklahoma state officials. American Indians were educated at the school just across the Oklahoma border south of Arkansas City from 1884 until it closed in 1980.
Dignitaries on hand included leaders of all five of the Council of Confederated Chilocco Tribes, two Oklahoma legislators and Deputy Director Melvena Heisch, of the Oklahoma State Historical Preservation Office.
A group of American Indian singers and drummers performed several traditional songs during the ceremony.
Josephine Wapp, a former arts and crafts teacher at the boarding school who is now 95-year-old, traveled from Lawton, Okla., to attend the ceremony.
She said she was happy American Indian groups plan to renovate the campus where she taught for nearly 30 years, but was sad to see that buildings on the 10,000-acre site are in such disrepair.
“It’s going to need a lot of work to fix it all up,” Wapp said.
An alliance has been formed between the Confederated Chilocco tribes and the Chilocco Alumni Association to renovate Chilocco, said Ron Rice, president of the Pawnee Nation.
Chairman Michael Harwell, of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, said the effort to renovate Chilocco will be a national one.
“The national historical designation does something for us. It’s a tool to make this place into something like what we remember it used to be,” Harwell said. “But it also is a chance to make it into a place that is a national draw for the American Indian. We want people to come from all over not just the United States but the world.”
— Associated Press
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