The strangest thing has
happened as far as the alumni of Chilocco are concerned. Wherever they
are, whoever they are, instantly there is a camaraderie. How it happens
is impossible to explain. The boarding school had become their parents,
the students their siblings. This was forever a part of their personality
“Who of us here are
Chilocco graduates?” Marvin asked.
He was a leader and he knew
how to find his allies. Quietly he stood as a number raised their hand in
a quick, deliberate, almost military like response, not too much unlike a
“What do you think about
that situation up there now?” Marvin pressed his point.
There were no answers. No
one opened their mouth. Their silence spoke in a loud way. Everyone knew
the deplorable conditions to have fallen upon their old school. They also
knew every avenue as far as putting the school on the Historical Registrar
had been met with apathy. The tribes who now owned the buildings were
plain not interested. A very elderly man arose. His grace with years gave
him a dignity and a respect instantly. If he was a bit unsteady it didn't
matter. The sureness of his attitude could have reached back to a century
ago when maybe his ancestor stood to speak and fight for their lands.
Recently, there were more
youthful men coming into a position on the councils and they were more
open and easier to approach. Still, they had no solutions and were
willing to admit there was no one to come forth with an idea. Maybe it
was to these younger men the elder spoke.
“I went to Chilocco. That
is where I learned respect for this country. We were taught how to live
in the white man's world. We didn't go to school in the morning just to
come home in the evening. We lived there and some of us stayed even in
the summer. When we graduated, we went on to serve this country in battle.
Chilocco was more than a school to us. I don't know why it was destroyed
and allowed to come to the place where it is now.”
As the older man retired
from his self-appointed podium immediately an elderly woman stood.
“I have something to say
about this matter.” She too, was very delicate and aged in her body. The
cruel master time had not taken a toll on her mind though.
“What I say you may not
want to hear, but it is the truth. For years Chilocco was under the
Department of the Interior and then all at once maybe around 1954 the
Bureau of Indian Affairs took over. From there on it was downhill for the
school. Now, here we are, still under the B.I.A. Bureau of Indian
Affairs who have been a curse to our people. Any way you go they go first
and tear us down. I don't care if they are a part of the United States
Government, they are not for the Indian people. As long as things are like
they are with them you won't get anything done. Of course, they don't want
schools for our people. They don't want anything that will help us.”
The group was quiet with no
responses. Who could challenge the woman?
Even though they felt a
loyalty and, in fact, were taught loyalty at Chilocco to their adopted
country or government, still, time and experience each and every one of
them had with the B.I.A. rendered them silent.
There were more rumblings
of discontent with the conditions to have fallen upon their old school at
the Chilocco Alumni meeting of 2003. Committees were formed up and
students who were now retired from their law firm or their medical duties
or businesses were taking the lead in again looking into the matter. Only
time would tell of how the out come was to be as far as doing anything
with the decaying edifices. The great strong history of early building of
the west and turning mighty warriors of tribes into educated American
citizens might be recorded and saved or it might not.