Indian Play: Indigenous Identities at Bacone College

Indian Play: Indigenous Identities at Bacone College

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0803240996

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


When Indian University—now Bacone College—opened its doors in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1880, it was a small Baptist institution designed to train young Native Americans to be teachers and Christian missionaries among their own people and to act as agents of cultural assimilation. From 1927 to 1957, however, Bacone College changed course and pursued a new strategy of emphasizing the Indian identities of its students and projecting often-romanticized images of Indianness to the non-Indian public in its fund-raising campaigns. Money was funneled back into the school as administrators hired Native American faculty who in turn created innovative curricular programs in music and the arts that encouraged their students to explore and develop their Native identities. Through their frequent use of humor and inventive wordplay to reference Indianness—“Indian play”—students articulated the (often contradictory) implications of being educated Indians in mid-twentieth-century America. In this supportive and creative culture, Bacone became an “Indian school,” rather than just another “school for Indians.”

In examining how and why this transformation occurred, Lisa K. Neuman situates the students’ Indian play within larger theoretical frameworks of cultural creativity, ideologies of authenticity, and counterhegemonic practices that are central to the fields of Native American and indigenous studies today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a Cherokee student from the collegiate department was employed as a teacher in the primary department that year, a pattern that continued over time at Indian University. Seven Cherokees, one Choctaw, and four whites made up the student body of Indian University by the end of its first term, and there were fifty-six students by the end of the first full academic year.57 As the only institution of higher education in Indian Territory at the time, Indian University also accepted a small number of

thirty-two different tribes were now represented on campus.147 It was becoming imperative for Weeks to find a new set of donors, and he did this by constructing a new image for his school. NEW PATRONS Indian University had been designed to “civilize” Indian youth. By all accounts, it had been successful. By 1924, Indian students from Bacone were known to be bright, literate, model Christian citizens. 64 Creating an Indian University In February 1924, an article in the Watchman-Examiner

after 1927 Bacone presented the image that Indians had a civilization and a culture of their own to share. In the past, the primary mission of Bacone College had been the salvation of Indian souls. In 1927, another of its goals became the preservation of Indian culture. Money from Bacone’s fund-raising campaigns was used to implement new extracurricular and curricular programs for the school that centered on the Indian identities of the school’s students. 93 CHAP TER THREE “The Dream of an

year, their work was on display at the Denver Art Museum. Eighteen months after they arrived, thirty-five of their paintings were exhibited at the International Art Congress in Prague. In 1929, Jacobson and d’Ucel secured a French publishing house to release a limited-edition portfolio showcasing the work of the Kiowa students, and in 1931 Jacobson helped to arrange an exhibit of their work in New York City.17 Subsequently, the Kiowa paintings traveled the United States for two years, gaining the

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 FIGURES 1. Red Men’s Glee Club publicity brochure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 2. Almon C. Bacone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 3. Rockefeller Hall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 4. Benjamin D. Weeks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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