OKLAHOMA – The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa continue to seek participants for the Oklahoma Catholic Native Schools Project launched in November 2021.
The mission of the project is to better understand the history of Catholic Indian boarding schools in Oklahoma by gathering oral histories from former students and their descendants, studying documentation on Catholic Indian boarding schools from parishes, religious orders, tribes, the U.S. Department of the Interior and other reputable sources.
Fourteen Catholic Indian boarding schools existed in Oklahoma between 1880 and 1965. The first one opened in Konawa in 1880 and closed in 1926. The last Catholic Indian boarding school, Saint Patrick’s in Anadarko closed in 1965.
Two schools were located in Konawa, one called St. Mary’s Academy and the other called Sacred Heart Institute, also known as St. Benedict’s Industrial School.
Muskogee had three schools called Nazareth College, Nazareth Institute, and St. Joseph’s College.
Other locations within the state include Sacred Heart Academy in Vinita, St. Agnes Academy for Girls in Antlers, St. Elizabeth School in Purcell, St. John’s School in Hominy Creek, St. Joseph’s Academy in Chickasha, St. Louis School for Osage Indian Girls (later renamed St. Louis Academy) in Pawhuska, St. Mary of the Quapaws in Quapaw, and St. Patrick Indian Mission in Anadarko.
The dioceses are collaborating with Marquette University Associate Professor of History Dr. Bryan Rindfleisch to develop a report of the information collected through documents and oral histories. The university houses archives of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions in Milwaukee, WI.
“It is important we learn and understand the experiences of American Indian children and their families at Catholic boarding schools in Oklahoma so we can make better and more informed decisions moving forward,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said. “We will continue to build a culture of inclusion, healing and understanding related to Native American Catholics in our state.”
The project is a joint effort by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the Diocese of Tulsa and Saint Gregory’s Abbey.
To learn more about the project, go online to archokc.org/oknativeschoolsproject. To contribute documents and/or photographs to the project or to share an experience from a Catholic Indian boarding school in Oklahoma, e-mail email@example.com.
The Diocese is also currently seeking to employ interviewers as a part of the project. All information can be found on their website.
Willing participants can fill out the e-form and return it to be contacted.