They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School
Established in 1884 and operative for nearly a century, the Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma was one of a series of off-reservation boarding ... Show synopsis Established in 1884 and operative for nearly a century, the Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma was one of a series of off-reservation boarding schools intended to assimilate American Indian children into mainstream American life. Latterday critics have characterized the schools as destroyers of Indian communities and cultures, but the reality K. Tsianina Lomawaima discloses was much more complex. "Indian people took possession of Chilocco and made it their own, " she writes. "Their voices should tell its history." In recollections juxtaposed against the official records of racist ideology and repressive practice, students from the 1920s and '30s recall their loneliness and demoralization but also remember with pride the love and mutual support binding them together, their creative rebellions against petty authority, the forging of new pan-Indian identities and reinforcement of old tribal ones, the skills and trades they mastered, and the leadership they developed. The evocative chapter titles cover the gamut of the boarding school experience expressed in Lomawaima's interviews: "They Called It Prairie Light, " "The Finest School on Earth, " "I Could Always Plow a Pretty Straight Line, " "You're a Woman, You're Going to be a Wife, " "You Dizzy Bastard, Get in Step!, " "Hm! White Boy - You Got No Business Here!"