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Strong Turnout For Chilocco Reunion

Strong Turnout For Chilocco Reunion
May 31
18:00 2015

Chilocco School SMALLAbout 300 alumni returned to Newkirk, Okla., for the annual Chilocco Indian Boarding School reunion, which drew to a close May 31. Chilooco opened in 1884 with 123 students. Its first graduating class was comprised of six boys and nine girls. The school finally closed its doors in 1980. The name Chilooco comes from the Choctaw word “chiluki” and the Cherokee word “tsalagi,” which means “cave people” in both languages.

There were stories of the old days, a sharing of fond memories and youthful hijinx during the four-day event.

This year members of the Class of 1965 were special honorees, celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation, and the Class of 1975 was recognized on its 40th anniversary.

Charles LeClair, 84, class of 1947, recalled one of the many stories involving Mr. Bearskin, who ran the poultry farm at Chilocco.

James Bearskin, who had lost his left arm in an industrial accident, was a member of the Quapaw tribe. One night he heard some noise around the farm and chased several fleeing figures. He caught up with several of the boys.

He asked them if they had seen any egg thieves, said LeClair, a member of the Pottawatomie ad Ponca tribes. The boys said they hadn’t. Most of the boys had ditched their eggs while being chased, LeClair said, but one had hid his under his hat.


Newkirk, Ok.

“Mr. Bearskin said ‘Well, have a good night’, and he reached over and patted the boy on top of his head. The boy stood there with eggs running down the side of his face!”

A lot of the stories deal with the students being hungry.

“We ate on a schedule and there was no snacking in between,” said Page’s Bernice Austin-Begay, a member of the Chilocco Hall of Fame.

At the Veterans Breakfast Saturday (May 29), Charles McDonald, Class of ’58, presided over the distribution of special medals to the veterans in attendance.

Awarding the Chilocco medals began in 2012 and the alumni association has presented nearly 140 since then, McDonald said.

Chilocco grad Elaine Childers fondly recalled her late father, Congressional Medal of Honor winner Ernest Childers. She said there was no “if” about going to college, her father expected it of her, she said.

Childers had suffered a severe foot injury so that he had to virtually crawl forward. He still killed a pair of enemy snipers and captured two machine-gun nests to win his honor.

“Dad didn’t talk about his medal much,” Elaine Childers said. “He said he was motivated by anger at seeing his friends being killed around him. He did what he had to do to save them.”

“I miss the people coming around to the house and sitting and talking with him,” Elaine said, her voice cracking with emotion. “That was one of his greatest pleasures.”





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