Proud History of Education
Choctaw - a quiet, kind people - lived in present day Mississippi,
Louisiana, and Alabama. Their rural, agrarian life changed
in the late 1700s due to the impact of white settlement. To co-exist,
the Choctaw tried to understand and adopt the new ways.
Beginning as early as 1821, the Choctaw were
one of the first tribes to build schools and provide education
for their people.
Desire for Indian lands grew. Congress passed
the Indian Removal Act and the Choctaw were the first moved
to present-day Oklahoma in 1830 by the Treaty of Dancing
Rabbit Creek. Over 20,000 Choctaw began the journey. Thousands
died in what would later be called by Choctaw leaders as
a “Trail of Tears and Death.”
Missionaries sent to Oklahoma assisted the Indians. The Choctaw
accepted an alien religion, constitution and legal system.
Almost immediately they began building schools.
One school, established in 1891, was named after a Choctaw
Chief born in Mississippi, who traveled with his family to
Oklahoma over the Trail of Tears. Chief Wilson N. Jones had
little formal education, but believed strongly that education
would help his tribe.
In 1952, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ceased funding academic and vocational activities at most Indian boarding schools. Jones Academy students began attending the Hartshorne Public Schools. Wheelock Academy, a non-reservation girls’ boarding school near Millerton in McCurtain County, was closed in 1955 after having been in operation since 1839. Approximately fifty-five girls transferred to Jones Academy. For the first time since its beginning in 1891, Jones Academy became a co-educational boarding dormitory.
With the Indian Self Determination and Education Act (1972) and further legislation, the Choctaw Nation became the first American Indian tribe to operate a tribally controlled grant school. Known as a peripheral dormitory school, Jones Academy students are still part of the Hartshorne School District.