St. Mary's Mission School
|St. Mary's Mission School|
|Location||Picher, OK/Quapaw Station, OK|
Opened by the Catholic Rev. William H. Ketcham in Quapaw Station, Oklahoma (now called Picher, OK). The 40-acres of Quapaw land was given by the Quapaw Tribal Council to establish a Catholic school on the reserve. The school cost $1500.00 to build, with a $350.00 Priest's house nearby.
Historians have consistently referred to the Quapaws as a Catholic tribe. As early as 1673, Father Marquette, a Jesuits, had visited the Quapaw.
The Catholic Indian Boarding schools took the Federal Boarding school's advice and set separate learning programs for boys and girls. Boys studied for jobs they were thought to be capable of when they grew older, physical labor, farming, handling cattle, gardening. The girls were taught the "American" way to cook, clean, sew, and keep a house. (They took this a step further by making completely separate homes in different towns for the Osage children.) All children were required to speak English and honor Catholic teachings while shunning their own culture.
As early as 1901 zinc mining had begun in Quapaw Station, and in 1912 a large mine was established on the land of Benjamin Quapaw, a tribal elder. This became one of the richest zinc and lead fields in the world.
In 1937, the church leased the property for mining, which resulted in the site being largely covered by mine tailings (known as chat) contaminated with heavy metals.
In 1975, the Catholic Church deeded the property back to the Quapaw Tribe. The ruins of the church and school, as well as contaminated mine tailings and a cemetery, remain on the property today.