Interior Secretary Salazar Visits Riverside Indian School


To showcase the Department of the Interior’s commitment to expanding quality educational opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native students, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently visited Riverside Indian School, the largest Off-Reservation Boarding School (ORBS) run by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

“Quality education is critically important to the fabric of healthy communities and is a key part of our nation’s effort to win the future,” Salazar said during his March 15 visit. “I am impressed with the work Riverside students are doing on a daily basis, and I’m confident they can be our leaders of tomorrow.  Improving Indian education is a top priority for Interior, and the Bureau of Indian Education will continue to work to provide our young people with the best resources and education available and to support and promote tribal self-determination and self-governance.”

Riverside started operating in 1871 with only eight students, but the next year another building was needed to accommodate about 40 students. Back then the school was located about a mile from its present site and was called the Wichita-Caddo School.

The school moved to its current location in 1878 after a fire, and in 1893 had 60 students representing Wichita, Caddo and Delaware tribes. The school now serves 540 students representing 72 federally recognized tribes, and has 52 buildings. According to an Interior press release, the school opened a new cafeteria in 2009 and received $1.1 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to replace a water tower and deteriorated water lines.

While visiting, Salazar and Deputy Assistant Secretary Jodi Gillette toured the school and learned about programs at Riverside.

Two programs mentioned by the Interior include the A Credit Recovery (ACE) Program, which works with students to make sure they get enough credits to graduate, and the Caddo-Kiowa Vo-tech (CKV), which allows students to train and get credits toward careers in nursing, cosmetology, welding and childcare.

“Having Secretary Salazar visit our school is a great honor for our students, faculty and staff,” said Riverside Superintendent Tony Dearman. “We are excited by his interest in us, and welcome the opportunity to share with him what we are doing a Riverside Indian School to prepare our students both mentally and physically for the future.”

Like all BIE schools, Riverside is also participating in the six-week Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) Challenge, a program inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity.

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angel5's picture
Submitted by angel5 on
As Anthropologist/Ethnographer Lowell Bean describes in an interview: “The language was lost in part because there was a deliberate attempt by the federal government to stop people from speaking the language. It was played out most vividly in the Indian schools. Children would be brought to the school, such as Sherman Institute in Riverside, and they were not allowed to speak their language. Another factor was that they -- the students there were from different tribes, so they didn't speak -- they couldn't understand someone from another tribe -- another language group, I should say. So you may have five or six or seven languages being spoken in that school, when they were allowed to do it. The -- it was an intent of the teaching process to deculturalize them in any way they possibly could.” Bean Continues to describe how cultural information is embedded in language. ”to have the cultural memory that's in the language and the history of the people, which is in the songs and the stories. Quite literally, the song cycles -- of which there are many hundreds of hundreds of songs – tell about everything from the creation to the biotic community, what animals are here and what they're about, what birds are here and what foods are here to eat and where the trails are and all the ceremonial and religious materials and the games that are played. All of that -- everything is in the language. And when the language is gone you [sic]-- those things go with them. You can't do [sic] -- you can't do a ceremony in English for goodness sakes. It would be [sic] -- it would be sacrilegious. So as speakers -- as fluent speakers passed away, those materials passed away with them, everything from the most sacred to the most common.”