Colorful half-tone picture postcard featuring the Chemawa Indian Training School
Colorful half-tone picture postcard featuring the Chemawa Indian Training School

Colorful half-tone picture postcard featuring the Chemawa Indian Training School

San Francisco: Published by Edward H. Mitchel, circa 1907-1915. Unbound. This colorful postcard features a photo-reproduction view of the young uniformed male students from Chemawa Indian Training School standing under its entrance gate with the institution's main building in the background. Unsused. In nice shape with two minor scuffs on the reverse from where it was apparently mounted in an album. The postcard has a divided back and no white border, both indicators that it was printed between 1907 and 1915. Very good. Item #009605

The Chemawa boarding school opened in Oregon in 1880 under the command of General O. O. Howard, the former commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau and the founder of Howard University in Washington, D.C. Howard had his secretary, Lieutenant Melville Wilkensen, and eight Puyallup Indian youths begin construction on land leased from Pacific University. Howard was then in command of the U.S. Army’s Department of the Columbia and responsible for regional Indian affairs.

In its early years and lasting through the early part of the 20th century, Chemawa followed the pattern for Indian schools that was first established at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Native American parents were pressured, and in some cases forced, to allow the Bureau of Indian Affairs to enroll their children at boarding schools often hundreds of miles away from home. There, they were forced to abandon their tribal languages, dress, and traditions while being totally immersed in white, Christian culture. Infractions or resistance was met with punishment.

By the 1940s, the draconian restrictions had been relaxed at Chemawa, and students were free, although not encouraged, to speak their native language, braid their hair, wear jewelry with tribal motifs, and perform traditional drumming, singing, and dancing. The Bureau of Indian Affairs still operates the institution today as a four-year high school, where Indian culture is an important part of the both the curriculum and extra-curriculum.

While the school initially served only members of the Kalpuya People, by the time of this postcard, students from any tribe could attend, and many did including its most famous alumnus, Spade Cooley, a three-quarters-white Cherokee from Oklahoma, who became the King of Western Swing (sorry, Bob Wills fans) and in one of the biggest scandals of the 1960s, murdered his wife in an alcohol-fueled rage after she taunted him by claiming to have had an affair with Roy Rogers in the early 1950s. Cooley was born in 1910, so it is possible he is one of the younger boys pictured on this card.

Price: $35.00

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