Stories of sacrifice and survival: Discovering student life in the early years of Haskell Institute, 1884--1900

Theresa Milk
Dept. of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, University of Kansas
July, 2006


Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian Nations University) is a unique institution that has evolved over the past 120+ years from a government-run boarding school into an institution of higher education. Various individuals have introduced a number of historical narratives about Haskell over time, each with their own purpose and interpretation. The older studies are focused on the institution itself and although the more recent theses and dissertations work to include a student perspective, there are no concrete stories of or connections made between actual students. In other words, the stories of the students are missing. It is that void that began this journey through the past.

To start with, the process of historical inquiry generally, and as it is connected to this particular document, is discussed. Moreover, the actual process of historical research in this endeavor unfolds before a reader's eyes in a few of the stories in the text. Ultimately, this narrative uncovers, explores and shares some stories of students from the earliest years of Haskell Institute, 1884-1900.

These stories illustrate strength, resilience and persistence in the young Native people who were subject to highly regulated and, oftentimes harsh, conditions. There are stories of student sacrifice, but at the same time, there are stories of student survival. Through the stories, a reader is introduced to little pieces of the lives of some of the 19 th century Haskell students. In the end, the stories add further depth, another dimension even, to the historical knowledge of Haskell.

These are stories that needed to be found, stories that needed to be remembered, stories that needed to be told and re-told.