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Indian Play

Indigenous Identities at Bacone College

Lisa K. Neuman

Publication Year: 2014

When Indian University—now Bacone College—opened its doors in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1880, it was a small Baptist institution designed to train young Native Americans to be teachers and Christian missionaries among their own people and to act as agents of cultural assimilation. From 1927 to 1957, however, Bacone College changed course and pursued a new strategy of emphasizing the Indian identities of its students and projecting often-romanticized images of Indianness to the non-Indian public in its fund-raising campaigns. Money was funneled back into the school as administrators hired Native American faculty who in turn created innovative curricular programs in music and the art that encouraged their students to explore and develop their Native identities. Through their frequent use of humor and inventive wordplay to reference Indianness—“Indian play”—students articulated the (often contradictory) implications of being educated Indians in mid-twentieth-century America. In this supportive and creative culture, Bacone became an “Indian school,” rather than just another “school for Indians.”

In examining how and why this transformation occurred, Lisa K. Neuman situates the students’ Indian play within a larger theoretical framework of cultural creativity, ideologies of authenticity, and counterhegemonic practices that are central to the fields of Native American and indigenous studies today.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvi

I engaged a variety of research techniques during my fieldwork in 1995. I personally interviewed forty-six former Baconians (most of them alumni). I also used telephone interviews and a written questionnaire to reach a larger number of alumni living out of state. this project. While personal interviews provided strong data on ...

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pp. xvii-xxiv

Several organizations and individuals provided generous financial support for this project, from its inception as a doctoral dissertation in cultural anthropology at Duke University to the book that it is today. A Phillips Fund Grant for Native American Research, awarded by the American Philosophical Society, and a Jacobs Research Fund grant, ...

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pp. 1-28

This is a historical account of American Indian education, but it is also much more. It is the story of how an educational institution designed to assimilate young Native Americans to European Ameri-can society became a site where Indian identities could flourish. It is also the story of how a unique school fostered an environment where ...

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1. Creating an Indian University

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pp. 29-70

A Christian school planted in the midst of a people becomes one of the Bacone, established Indian University in a small building on the grounds of the Cherokee Male Seminary, a nonsectarian school run by the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Indian Territory.1 Shortly thereafter, the administration of Bacone?s school came under the ...

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2. Images of Indianness

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pp. 71-94

The Indian had a culture of his own long before the white man ever came Motivated by financial concerns, in 1927 Bacone College began to court white patrons by accentuating the Indianness of its students in fund-raising campaigns. Although it had been founded with the explicit purpose of ?civilizing? Indian youth, beginning in 1927 ...

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3. “The Dream of an Indian Princess”

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pp. 95-124

Only as students are inspired to create and perpetuate the beauty of Indian traditions and art???to enrich their homes with a deep culture and refine-In an article that appeared in Missions magazine titled ?The Dream of an Indian Princess,? Ataloa wrote that ?it is not too late to educate both the Indian and the white man to the intrinsic values in Indian ...

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4. Indian Education in a Changing America

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pp. 125-160

Bacone has currently as one of its objectives the preservation of Indian culture. The federal policy implies that Indian culture cannot survive without its original economic and [social] supports and with the increasing absorption of the Indian into the social and economic base of American culture, any attempt to preserve Indian culture, except in art forms, music, ...

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5. Marketing Culture

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pp. 161-192

Created by Princess Ataloa in the late 1920s, Bacone?s programs in arts and crafts had become, two decades later, the centerpiece of the school?s programs in Indian culture. Under Ataloa?s succes-Department of Indian Art. While Indian art at Bacone came to be cultures, ideas about cultural preservation took on a larger signifi-...

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6. Painting Culture

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pp. 193-216

Those [students] from back east were a little removed from their ways but had a portion of it. Then we?d do research in the Indian room [of the library] on old ceremonies so that way they could preserve it and go back to teach it.Under the leadership of alumnus Dick West, whose tenure as head of Bacone?s art department spanned twenty-three years, Bacone?s ...

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7. Being Indian at School

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pp. 217-242

In the spring of 1928, Baconian Ruth Hopkins???the niece of the had about their experiences at Bacone. Hopkins?s poem is one of formances, and artistic creations produced by Baconians from the 1920s through the 1950s that directly commented on the meanings of being Indian and being educated. Through their frequent use of ...

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8. The Meanings of Indianness

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pp. 243-272

I didn?t know a lot about Cherokee culture until, really, I went out to Bacone.While they were constructing ideas about what it meant to be edu-cated, high school and college students at Bacone also were creatively negotiating their Indian identities. We have seen that students who participated in Bacone?s art program tended to accentuate differ-...

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pp. 273-286

...access to higher education in the erstwhile Indian Territory but also to contribute to the ?civilization? of Indians by ?plant[ing]? Christianity in their hearts and minds.1 As such, Bacone?s early religious mission was firmly embedded in late-nineteenth-century neocolonial ideologies that were designed to assimilate American ...


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pp. 287-342


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pp. 343-356


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pp. 357-376

E-ISBN-13: 9780803249455
E-ISBN-10: 0803249454
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803240995

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 12 illust. (bw), 24 images (bw), 2 maps
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 862746832
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Indian Play

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indian philosophy -- Oklahoma.
  • Education, Higher -- Oklahoma -- Philosophy.
  • Indians of North America -- Oklahoma -- Ethnic identity.
  • Indians of North America -- Education (Higher) -- Oklahoma.
  • Bacone College -- History.
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