Chilocco Indian Agricultural School

Coordinates: 36°59′6″N 97°3′45″W / 36.98500°N 97.06250°W / 36.98500; -97.06250
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Chilocco Indian Agricultural School
One of the abandoned buildings at Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, a school for Native Americans that operated from 1884 to 1980 located approximately 20 miles north of Ponca City, Oklahoma.
Chilocco Indian Agricultural School is located in Oklahoma
Chilocco Indian Agricultural School
Chilocco Indian Agricultural School is located in the United States
Chilocco Indian Agricultural School
LocationUS 77 and E0018 Rd., Newkirk, Oklahoma
Coordinates36°59′6″N 97°3′45″W / 36.98500°N 97.06250°W / 36.98500; -97.06250
Area288 acres (117 ha)
ArchitectBidwell, Edmund; Pauley, Hoyland & Smith
Architectural styleRomanesque, Colonial Revival, et al.
NRHP reference No.06000792[1]
Added to NRHPSeptember 08, 2006

Chilocco Indian School was an agricultural school for Native Americans on reserved land in north-central Oklahoma from 1884 to 1980. It was approximately 20 miles north of Ponca City, Oklahoma and seven miles north of Newkirk, Oklahoma, near the Kansas border. The name "Chilocco" is apparently derived from the Creek tci lako, which literally meant "big deer" but typically referred to a horse.[2][3]

In 1912, the Oklahoma Supreme Court heard a case over an election dispute involving whisky and whether the Chilocco reservation was part of Kay County and the state of Oklahoma or "Indian Territory".[4] The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school land was not an Indian Reservation, that the school was an off-reservation entity, and that the word reservation had various meanings and the area was not reserved as Indian territory.[5]


The U.S. Congress in 1882 authorized the creation of five non-reservation boarding schools. Chilocco was one of the five which also included Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas, Chemawa Indian School in Oregon, and Fort Simcoe in Washington. Major James M. Haworth, first Superintendent of Indian Schools, selected a site for the school along Chilocco Creek.[6] The Indian Territory land was set aside for the school by an 1884 executive order signed by 21st President of the United States Chester Arthur.[7][8] Chilocco was located in the Cherokee Outlet or Cherokee Strip and the Cherokee provided 8,640 acres (35 km2) of land to help Chilocco fulfill its mandate for agricultural education.

Objective and curriculum[edit]

A few dozen students work with gardening tools in a leafy field
Students working in the garden at Chilocco Indian School (1909)

Chilocco provided academic and vocational education to American Indian students from all tribes in the United States. Its objective, like other American Indian residential schools, was to integrate and assimilate American Indians into the mainstream of American life. Until the 1930s, the school relied on a highly structured and strict military regime.

Students "remember twenty-two bugle calls a day, Government-issue uniforms, scanty meals, inadequate health care, and a paucity of individual attention." The school was "home and haven to some, reformatory and prison to others." Instruction focused mostly on vocational training rather than academic subjects and students were required to perform manual and domestic labor known as "actual work."[9] Not only was education primarily vocational, it was often rudimentary in comparison to the education of white contemporaries. Native girls were being trained "not to labor in their homes but as employees of white women or the boarding schools that trained them. The Chilocco school aimed to teach Native girls subservience, and did not have a true stake in their education.[10]" Students were required to attend Christian religious services once a week."[11]

A 1928 report critical of the Indian boarding schools led to reforms in the 1930s. "Boys and girls could sit together in the dining rooms, more attention was invested in academic work, and drudgery work devoted to school upkeep was cut back."[9] 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.


five young men in basketball uniforms with swastika logo
The 1909 Chilocco basketball team. Chilocco athletic teams often defeated University teams. The swastika was a common symbol used by American Indians until World War II.

The school opened in 1884 with 150 students from the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Wichita, Comanche, and Pawnee tribes.[9] In 1894, the first graduating class consisted of 15 students. 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. Buildings were constructed from distinctive locally quarried yellow limestone. Students worked on the "rockpile" breaking large boulders into construction material.[12]

Enrollment declined during the 1920s and the elementary school was closed, but with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, enrollment increased because of growing poverty among Indians. As one graduate said, "It wasn't a matter of enjoying [Chilocco], it meant we were educated, clothed, fed, and had a roof over our head."[13]

Chief Joseph gave his hunting rifle to Chilocco in 1885. It was returned to the Nez Percé when the school was closed in 1980.

In 1949, a special program for Navajo youth began. Enrollment at Chilocco peaked at about 1,300 in the 1950s.[14] Thereafter, enrollment declined as many Indians had access to public schools and a boarding school was no longer essential to their education. In the 1970s, activists from American Indian organizations criticized abuses and, in 1972, the National Indian Youth Council staged a sit-in at the school. By the late 1970s only about 100 students still lived at the school.[12]

After closure[edit]

The Chilocco School closed on June 3, 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."[15] During its history nearly 18,000 students from 126 Indian tribes attended Chilocco. Chilocco granted high school diplomas to 5,542 students. Graduates included 688 Cherokees, 573 Choctaw, 545 Navajo, and 452 Creek divided between 2,741 females and 2,801 males.[16]

After closure, the school's land was granted 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), and the Tonkawa Tribe (.10 mineral interest). The Cherokee Nation holds a .50 mineral interest. Between 1989 and 2001, the property was leased to Narconon, which operated a substance abuse rehabilitation center at the site.[17]

In 2000, the Council of Confederate Chilocco Tribes was created by the Chilocco Treaty between the United States and the Kaw Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Pawnee Nation, Ponca Nation, and the Tonkawa Tribe. The treaty gave these nations joint authority to oversee and manage the former campus.[18]

In 2006, Chilocco Indian Agricultural School was added to the National Register of Historic Places.[19]

In 2011, Chilocco was closed to the public and used as a training and practice facility for federal law enforcement personnel.[12]

In October 2016, the Cherokees announced that they were leasing to PNE Wind more than 4,000 acres of Chilocco land for a wind energy project. Other portions were to continue to be leased as ranchland.[20]

In November 2017, the Department of Homeland Security published a statement in The Newkirk Herald warning local residents it was conducting tests at Chilocco Indian School. The statement advised "in January/February and again in June/July 2018, particles will be released onto buildings of the Chilocco campus. It is to determine how well biological agents will penetrate into single and multi-family homes." The department stated these chemicals are nontoxic and nonhazardous, but many in the community of Newkirk, Oklahoma expressed skepticism.[21] The Department of Homeland Security report on the test confirms the chemicals used were nontoxic. Permission to use Chilocco as the site of their test was granted by the Council of Confederate Chiloco Tribes.[18]

In 2021, after the discovery of hundreds of graves at Canadian residential schools the Chilocco Alumni Association called for ground penetrating radar equipment to survey outside of the cemetery for unmarked graves.[19]

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

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  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ Bright, William. Native American Placenames of the United States Norman: U of OK Press, 2004, p. 104
  3. ^ Shirk, George H. (1974). Oklahoma Place Names (2 ed.). Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 50. ISBN 0806111402.
  4. ^ "The American and English Annotated Cases". 1913.
  5. ^ "American Indian Law Review". University of Oklahoma College of Law. 1979.
  6. ^ Gabbert, Jim (2006). "Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, A National Register Historic District". The Chronicles of Oklahoma. Oklahoma Historical Society. 84 (3 - Fall 2006): 343–353. LCCN 23027299. OCLC 655582328.
  7. ^ Arthur, Chester A. (1912). "Chilocco School Reservation ~ July 12, 1884" [Executive Orders Relating to Indian Reserves, from May 14, 1855, to July 1, 1902]. Internet Archive. United States Government Printing Office. p. 141. LCCN 34008449. OCLC 966752993.
  8. ^ "Chilocco Indian School Organization Authority Record". Office of Indian Affairs (of the USDOI). 1947. Retrieved November 17, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c Lomawaima, K. Tsianina. "Chilocco Indian Agricultural School | The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  10. ^ Lomawaima, K. Tsianina (1996). They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 81–85.
  11. ^ "Chilocco Indian School REVISITED.[permanent dead link], accessed 20 Dec 2011
  12. ^ a b c "Chilocco Indian School REVISITED", accessed 20 Sept 2011
  13. ^ Brumley, Kim. Chilocco: Memories of a Native American Boarding School. Fairfax, OK: Guardian Publishing, 2010, p 53
  14. ^ "2011 Oklahoma's Most Endangered Historic Places: Chilocco Indian School". Preservation Oklahoma. April 30, 2012. Archived from the original on April 30, 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2023.
  15. ^ Brumley, Kim. Chilocco: Memories of a Native American Boarding School. Fairfax, OK: Guardian Publishing Co., 2010, p. 37
  16. ^ "Chilocco Indian School Timeline". Chilocco Indian School Alimni. Cherokee Nation. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  17. ^ "Chilocco Indian Agricultural School | The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture". Oklahoma Historical Society | OHS. Retrieved November 28, 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Environmental Assessment of Proposed Tracer Particle and Biological Releases for the Hazards of Dynamic Outdoor Release (HODOR) Project" (PDF). Department of Homeland Security. October 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 10, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2021.
  19. ^ a b Herrera, Allison (December 21, 2021). "Chilocco Indian Agricultural School should remain 'a site of conscience'". KOSU-NPR. Retrieved December 22, 2021.
  20. ^ "Tribal Council approves lease for wind farm at former Chilocco Indian School". Cherokee Nation. Archived from the original on August 11, 2017. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  21. ^ "Chemicals to be Released Near Newkirk".
  22. ^ "Chilocco Loans". Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2011.

External links[edit]

  • PM Kisan Samman Nidhi [1]