Seneca Boarding School

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Seneca Indian Boarding School
Established 1871
Construction Began 1872
Opened 1880
Closed 1980
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Wyandotte, OK
Alternate Names
  • Seneca Indian School
  • Seneca Industrial Boarding School
  • Wyandotte Mission School



History[edit]

The Seneca Indian School was a Native American boarding school located in Wyandotte, Oklahoma. Initially founded for Seneca, Shawnee, and Wyandotte children, in later years it had many Cherokee students.

The Society of Friends (Quakers) had established a mission in Wyandotte in 1869, and in 1870 The Wyandotte Tribal Council with permission from the Indian Affairs, donated land for the Quakers to establish a boarding school for Seneca, Shawnee and Wyandotte children. Construction of the school began in 1871 and classes began in 1872 with fewer than 50 students.

The federal government began to assume a more active role in Indian education starting in 1876. The federal government continued to assert increasing control over the school, completely managing it by 1880, although the Friends continued to support it with gifts. Due to recruitment efforts and increased pressure by the fed gov, the enrollment increased to more than 135 pupils by 1885. (Some accounts hold that the fed gov used the BIA agents to threaten to take away valued food rations if children were not sent to the boarding school.)

Children aging 4-18yrs old attended the school, which initially offered curriculum through the 4th grade, later expanding to the 9th grade in the 1920's.

By the 1920s, the composition of the student body had changed, and was largely Cherokee students. The school had an outbreak of measles and typhoid in 1927, and dozens of Native children died. Students were not forced to speak English, but students do remember working all the time. Previous students recall waking up at 4am to start the various tasks they were set to; including taking care of hogs, farming, baking, and cleaning.

In 1928 a new principal was appointed, Joe Kagey. The school changed its admittance policy, and was opened to children of all tribes. It became an "institutional" school for children coming from situations of hardship. In 1952, there were 173 Cherokee students, and a number of students from other tribes. Kagey retired in 1956.

The school closed on June 15, 1980. The school's 189 acres of land were returned to the Wyandotte Tribe. A selection of school records created between 1916-1970 are held by the National Archives. All the buildings have been demolished, replaced by a beautiful new fitness center managed by the Wyandotte tribal government. A large mural inside portrays the history of the school.