My cousin and I were working
the crowd around the new stately arbor built with steel instead of willow
branches. Oh yes, it was a creation used for the first time to serve the
American Indian's once a year celebration for Chief Standing Bear that was
now in its twelth year. We had been given a booth directly in the center of
the crafters booths. The small sign at the front of the shaky, plastic,
overhead covering bravely proclaimed, "Chilocco Alumni." It was the work of
this newly established chapter to try to inform former students, alumni,
employees and anyone else who might be interested in our October 22, 2005
meeting at the Ponca City Clubhouse on South Fourth Street. The Standing
Bear Pow Wow was an opportune time to do this because there were to be so
many people out. The speaker had already announced what we were doing and a
number of people came by to put their name on the mailing list to receive an
invitation. It was a bit of a strange feeling to see so many come through
who were in some way or another involved with Chilocco.
In a small way it was like a
reunion. The faces of those coming through who were actually graduates all
had a difference in their expressions. I mentioned this to my cousin in a
way so as not to make any statement about what I was seeing since I couldn't
even describe it myself. It seems like we were able to pick out of the
crowd the ones who were, even in the smallest way, a part of the former
school such as one who was a granddaughter of a former 1940 student.
"Have you noticed the
Chilocco people have a manner, look, or something that is different from
everyone else? I can almost pick them out of the crowd" I mentioned this to
She replied, "It seems to me
to be a look out of their eyes that is different," so I wasn't just
imagining it, she had seen it, too.
But then, as soon as I was
sure of this skill in identification a strange thing happened. A petite
woman with soft curly hair and lovely tanned skin came walking past. I spoke
to her since I was so sure of my being able to identify the former
Chiloccoans. She had the fixture of a cell phone up to her ear and that was
a bit different but anyway, I barged in with a self-introduction.
"What is Chilocco?" She
"Oh! Excuse me! I've made a
mistake, I thought you were a former student."
"I am not from around here.
I'm a refugee from Katrina," she said. "We just got in the car and started
running away from the storm. That is my son-in-law you see ahead of me. He
lives here and told us to come on into this town where we could stay."
What a surprise I had to add
to my consciousness. I'm wondering to myself, "Is this the look we are
seeing? Are we refugees who have been displaced from a small Utopia called
Chilocco. And does that look still stay with us even after all these years?
Is that the gaze that seems to be one of someone looking far into the
distance as if they are seeing something no one else sees? Anyway, it was an
interesting study and I'm pleased to have been a witness to a flicker of
enlightment which was as brilliant as a camera's flashbulb, or as is now in
actuality an electronic flash, as all things are now reinvented and changed
to bring about an even brighter light and vision.