To the editor:
Mike Ford (Public Forum, March 14) thinks Marsha Goff whitewashed Haskell history. Goff (J-W, March 18) says an infant grave cited by Ford wasn't a student, yet her "facts" are more misleading. The average age of girls was 14 (boys 15). This tells a half-truth. Harry Hanneno was "average" age when the Comanche agent declared his father "incompetent," adopted Harry and sent him to Haskell. Harry was 23 when he died here.
There were many students in their 20s, but others, like Jim Thorpe, were very young. Agents withheld rations, even sent some parents to prison, to gain "consent" to take their kids away. Haskell's 1885 annual report supports Ford's claim. On Sept. 18, 1884, 33 students arrived. "An important part of this delegation ... 24 girls and six small boys, transferred from the (Indian) Territory to Haskell Institute by Supt. Haworth to test the feasibility of training younger pupils, especially girls, away from all camp associations." By January, there were many young children among the 280 pupils. Numerous reports describe "small boy" sleeping areas.
Denying small children were an integral part of Haskell's early years is indefensible. Many died. Erasing history is no way to heal the issues that divide this community. As we celebrate our sesquicentennial, we should seek ways to heal these wounds. Grasping how the Haskell-Baker Wetlands are central to that healing is one of the most crucial steps we can take to assure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.