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Paddle Your Own Canoe
Chapter 24

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 make-up.

“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 salute.

“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.

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