Listening to Our Grandmothers' Stories: The Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females, 1852-1949

Friday, February 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Listening to Our Grandmothers' Stories: The Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females, 1852-1949 By Amanda J. Cobb
Winner of the North American Prose Award

Bloomfield Academy was founded in 1852 by the Chickasaw Nation in conjunction with missionaries. It remained open for nearly a century, offering Chickasaw girls one of the finest educations in the West, far better than the schooling for most white children in Indian Territory. Founded long before Carlisle, the federally run off-reservation boarding school, Bloomfield (renamed Carter Seminary in 1932) represented one of the rare instances in the nineteenth century of a Native community seizing control of its children's formal education. After being forcibly relocated to Indian Territory, the Chickasaws saw education as instrumental to their survival in a rapidly changing world. Bloomfield became their way to prepare emerging generations of Chickasaw girls for new challenges and opportunities. Many alumnae have said that their education at Bloomfield was largely a positive experience, speaking of their classmates as "family."

Amanda J. Cobb became interested in Bloomfield Academy because of her grandmother, Ida Mae Pratt Cobb, who attended the school in the 1920s. Drawing on letters, reports, interviews with students, and school programs, Cobb tells the story of Bloomfield and its students, showing the type of education that the Chickasaw students received, how Bloomfield's curriculum changed over time, and the elements that set the academy apart from most other schools attended by Native American children, even after it was taken over by the federal government. For the Chickasaw Nation, Bloomfield, a tool of assimilation, became in reality an important method of self-preservation.

Amanda J. Cobb is an assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University and a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.

U.S. Cloth Price: $27.50. ISBN: 0-8032-1509-6 Features: xviii, 162 pages, 5 'h x 8 '/z inches, 17 photographs, 2 maps, index