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Rainy Mountain Indian School for the Kiowa and Apache Tribes

The ruin of a dormitory at the base of the Rainy Mountain.

From 1893 to 1920, the Rainy Mountain Indian School "Americanized" children from the Kiowa and Apache tribes, and now lies as an unmarked ruin.

Sitting at the base of a distinctive, barren hill just southwest of Gotebo (Kiowa-Apache-Comanche Reservation in Kiowa County, Oklahoma), the ruins of a former school rise from the prairie. Until a few decades ago, this site was accessible to everyone. Today, only cattle, their handlers, and pipeline workers come to this little bend in the road, now fenced to keep the animals from wandering off and inane four-wheelers from destroying the lands.

No historical marker tells about Rainy Mountain Indian School, which opened in 1893 on Kiowa-Apache lands as a federally-funded "assimilation" institution for Kiowa and Apache children. Inside classrooms and dormitories with "English only" policies, where violators would face harsh punishments, students learned farming, domestic arts, and other "American ways" inside a boarding school until the sixth grade. The school was continuously underfunded, however, and closed by 1920.

In his book "To Change them Forever: Indian Education at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1893-1920," historian Clyde Ellis concluded that the institution became a cultural reference point for the Kiowas, as it allowed the first generation to grow up "on the reservation" to learn the ways of the white people, which helped the tribe navigate their new circumstances while remaining on Kiowa land among Kiowa people. Instead of squashing Kiowa attributes, the school helped the Kiowas link their culture with the emerging one, and this meant that the tribe resisted the school's closure.... because afterwards, many of the Kiowa children were sent to the larger assimilation program at Fort Sill, where all children became simply "Indian."

While the school only existed for less than three decades, its ruins nonetheless deserve recognition and preservation. I visited them on a quiet Saturday that started warm and quickly fell into winter, and felt very conspicuous as I rolled beneath the closed gate.* Considering its location on the vast prairie between the beautiful Wichita Mountain ranges and sitting along the Ozark Auto Trail,** this place is primed for heritage, educational, and recreational tourism. Even the old road that winds its way up Rainy Mountain still exists --- this could be an excellent hiking trail!

It is vitally important for our region to preserve its deep history. I'll be writing to the tribal governments, state legislators and historical society, and federal representatives to voice my viewpoint... maybe, just maybe, we can ensure that this place does not become another lost, historic causality.

*The gate has no "no trespassing" signs posted and none of the posts are painted purple; the gate is meant to prevent four-wheelers and hunters from entering, and cattle from leaving. The whole parcel is part of the communal Indian holdings, which lease the land to ranchers.

** The Ozark Auto Trail began in 1913 as a tourist road that connected the Missouri Ozarks to the dramatic landscapes of New Mexico. The road's most lasting legacy are the obelisks that were placed at intersections to promote places along the highway. Portions of the road in Missouri, Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, and eastern New Mexico were incorporated into Route 66.

Group of students
Girl students at the boarding school in the early 20th century. Note their clothing... they are wearing "westernized" dresses but still use blankets and jewlery to distinguish their cultures (OHS).

Boys dormitory, with barns and classroom buildings surrounding them, at Rainy Mountain Indian School (OHS).

Foundation ruins at Rainy Mountain Indian School.

The gate to the ruins with Rainy Mountain in the background. Note that there is a road built along the hill, most likely once a stop for tourists on the Ozark Auto Trail. This wonderful place is completely unmarked, however.

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3 comentários

01 de dez. de 2023

This is so important to our area and should have it's own Historical Marker, very few people even know about these schools!


tim green
tim green
29 de nov. de 2023

Who do you contact to get permission to enter the property. I'd like to shoot this at night !


28 de nov. de 2023

Wow! Close enough to check out

thank you for posting and keeping these histories alive

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