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Early Students Project (1884-1895)


This project is comprised of an on-going endeavor to document the lives and experiences of Haskell's first students. Since the opening of the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum in 2002 tremendous strides have been made in obtaining and processing information relating to these students and their time at Haskell as well as making this information available to researchers and the general public alike.

1884-1889 Student Ledger Digitization

Begun in 2000 by Mila Capes-Altom, Haskell student, and Bobbi Rahder, Haskell Cultural Center and Museum Director, this project seeks to make Haskell's oldest surviving document, the original 1884 Student Ledger, available to researchers around the world. The information contained in this volume is of vital importance to genealogists as well as researchers with a wide array of interests.


The information presented here is divided into three sections and presented as Capes-Altom and Rahder recorded it in 2000.

Foreword and Introduction by Mila Capes-Altom


The legendary doors of Haskell Indian Nations University were originally opened in the fall of 1884, as per the order of the United States Congress. It was a time of great political and moral unrest with the question of the "Indian Problem" being one of those unpleasant problems that the US Congress and the United States Department of the Interior preferred to put into the hands of another entity to be dealt with.


One of the ways to end this problem was by removing the children of the many Indigenous tribes within the United States from their tribal environments and influences. Those same children were removed, sometimes by coercion, from their tribes and families. They were then placed into the care of non-native educators to be "civilized."


The wide spread moral theory of the time period was that it was the "will of God" to remove the savage from the child by means of education. This education became common practice as a way to assimilate the Indians into the mainstream of society. In order to accomplish this plan of assimilation the children were removed from their families, homes, tribes, cultures, and histories. Haskell Institute was just one of several educational institutions where these plans were carried out. It was during those first few years of operations by the educational institutes that not only were personal and tribal identities lost, but also those of whole families and tribes.


In 1999 a ledger book was found by Bobbi Rahder, Haskell Indian Nations University Archivist. Within the worn and deteriorating covers of the ledger book was the original handwritten enrollment and registry record for Haskell Institute's first five years of operation.


The ledger book contained the handwritten records of pupils enrolled at Haskell from 1884 through 1889. Among the reasons for excitement among the archive staff was that this particular collection contains not only the names of the students, but also their ages, tribes, tribal names, parents and/or guardians, where they arrived from, their home agencies, and other items of great historical and genealogical relevance.


When Bobbi showed me the ledger I became completely enthralled with the possibilities of how important the information was, and ultimately could be for many Indigenous descendants and researchers today. Together, Bobbi and I slowly discovered the wealth of information written within those tired and damaged pages. I developed an extraction plan and the work began in the Spring of 2000. It was totally finished in the Fall of 2000.


Through experience we have found that the pages are in extreme danger of falling to pieces due to the years of environmental exposure. Some of the data was unreadable so a question mark was put in the place of it. Thus the pages were photocopied onto acid free paper and the book was then stored in a secured area until funds can be found to have the complete collection microfilmed. The material transcribed from the pages have been categorized into three different areas according to the path laid down for me over a hundred years ago.

The Bollinger Photographic Collection


These 22 photographic images (daguerreotype and cabinet card formats) depict some of Haskell's earliest students with images dating back to 1884. These images provide a fascinating insight into the lives of these early students as these are their only known photographic documentation.


Their value lies in this rarity, enabling contemporary students, researchers, and museum visitors an opportunity to view these seemingly distant historical figures as living human beings who occupied the same spaces that we occupy today.

The Haskell Cultural Center and Museum is a partner in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.

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