Special Needs of Indian
Children - I know who you are.
“I know who you are.” The
superintendent of schools was a big man and now he leaned back in his
chair. His attitude made it plain he wasn’t having anything to do with
Oklahoma for Indians Opportunity or with Velma who was representing them.
“You may as well turn
around and go out the same way you came in here.
This is my school and I
don’t need any help in running it.”
“I know it is your school,
Sir. I’m here as a visitor. Velma as always was cautious. “I didn’t just
come to intrude on your schedule. I did ask for an appointment because my
organization wishes to work through the schools to help our Indian
students. I was sent here and it is part of my work assignment. If you do
not wish to talk with me, I have no other recourse than to report this to
your supervisors in Oklahoma City.” She did not wish to have a
confrontation and turned to leave just as he had asked her to do.
She walked out of the
double doors of the fine old brick building which was where the
administration office stood at the time. It was centrally located in town
and was beside brick streets that had been built by government programs
during the depression under the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration,
when he was president. All about the town were memories of the work these
men came to do while the country was in the throes of depression. Heavy
rock bridges in the parks, a great stone shelter house in another park
around Lake Ponca, dams with stone decoration across the roads where they
were, and much more. Federal government’s contributing to the economy and
welfare of the town wasn’t exactly an unknown happening although it seemed
at the moment all that had been totally forgotten.
The letter that went to the
office in Oklahoma City was written by the people in the O.I.O. office at
Norman. When the tall, strong man who was representing Velma’s office came
to visit with the superintendent, there was a different reception given to
him. This man was educated and graduated out of Howard University.
Velma smiled as she told
about the visit. “He knew all the right words. The superintendent had to
After that the programs to
help Indian children were put into place and with no hitches. The
Johnson-O’Malley plan was to provide supplementary financial assistance to
meet the unique and special needs of Indian children. It was not to
replace federal, state or local funds. There were broad and general
regulations that allowed the programs to be developed to meet local needs
and differences. Parent participation was encouraged.
Velma never allowed her own
children to use any of the aid. Lee, her husband, was raised by a strong
Republican woman and he would not allow the acceptance of assistance of
any kind. His children had not been raised on the reservation and he did
not feel they faced the same trials that Native children endured so were
not entitled to the provisions offered for Native American children.