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History: Chilocco Indian School Graduates of Note

History: Chilocco Indian School Graduates of Note
September 14
08:03 2021

Chilocco Indian School Graduates of Note

The Chilocco Indian School, in New Kirk, OK. was founded in 1884 and remained open for nearly a century. Indian students from around the country were sent there – some forcibly – to learn trades, such as carpentry, auto mechanics, agriculture or homemaking.

But some alumni broke from the stereotypical careers and carved out a unique niche for themselves.

One of those was actor Wes Studi (Cherokee), who is a Chilocco 1964 graduate.

Wes Studi

His major was dry cleaning – but he really cleaned up in Hollywood, where he has starred in many notable films – including “Hostiles,” “Dances With Wolves,” “Last of the Mohicans” and “Avatar.”

He also portrayed Navajo police officer Joe Leaphorn, a character created by author Tony Hillerman.

Studi, who is also a Vietnam veteran, was recently awarded an Oscar for lifetime achievement.

Chilocco can also claim the first full-blooded Native American to play Major League Baseball – Moses “Chief” Yellow Horse. But Yellow Horse’s brief baseball career would also lead to a decades-long rift between him and the Pawnee tribe.

Yellow Horse was born in 1898 in Indian Territory (Oklahoma didn’t become a state until 1907). Like many natives of the region Yellow Horse was taken from his family at a young age and shipped off to boarding school. It was there that Yellow Horse discovered baseball.

Yellow Horse

In 1917 Yellow Horse gained attention as a pitcher when he compiled an outstanding 17-0 record for Chilocco. After leaving Chilocco, Yellow Horse pitched for the Arkansas Travelers and, in 1920, led the team to its first championship.

In 1921 Yellow Horse was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He won five games before he suffered a severe arm injury. He returned to the team the following year – but his season was ended by another arm injury. It was rumored he suffered the injury when he took a tumble while drunk.

On the Pirates, Yellow Horse was befriended by future Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville – who introduced the young man to alcohol. Yellow Horse began to drink heavily, which caused the Pawnee tribe to distance themselves from him.

Though Yellow Horse played several more years of minor league baseball, arm injuries ended his career. He returned to Oklahoma, working menial jobs.

Then, in 1945, he quit drinking cold turkey. He was re-embraced by his tribe and lived the rest of his life without touching another drop of alcohol. Yellow Horse died in 1964.

Page resident Reuben D. Begay, Sr., (Class of 1963) was such an outstanding student that his Chilocco teachers wanted him to go to medical school. But Begay – who reads Carl Sagan, for fun! – opted not to leave his homeland. He retired after nearly 30 years as a chemist for the Navajo Generating Station.

His wife, Bernice Austin-Begay, also had the chance to leave Dinetah. After graduating from Chilocco in 1965, she was offered the chance to join NASA, but turned it down. Austin-Begay spent 48 years as a teacher, the last 22 as the first Navajo language teacher for the Page Unified School District. She is the daughter of noted Navajo medicine man Buck Austin.

Other notable Chilocco grads include three Medal of Honor winners – Jack Montgomery and Ernest Childers, for World War II service, and Charles George (Korean War) – two former Seminole chairmen, Mitchell Cypress and Howard Tommie, Pawnee silversmith Marlene Riding-In Mameah, Navajo Code Talker Keith Little and professional football player William “Lone Star” Dietz.

The first Navajo graduate of Chilocco was Bertha Shipley in 1915.

History: Chilocco Indian School Graduates of Note - overview

Summary: History: Chilocco Indian School Graduates of Note


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