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Between 1875 and 1925 Catholic mission conducted extensive mission work among American Indians in Oklahoma, though their efforts were not particularly fruitful in the long run. Schools for Indians operated at Sacred Heart (chiefly for Potawatomi, Seminole, and Sac and Fox), at Pawhuska and Gray Horse (Osage), at Purcell, Ardmore, and Chickasha (Chickasaws), at Muskogee and Tulsa (Creek), at Quapaw (Quapaw), at Vinita (Cherokee), at Antlers (Choctaw), and at Anadarko (Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache).

The longest lived of these was St. Patrick's Mission, established near the Anadarko Agency in 1892 and operated continuously until 1966. A project of the Benedictine monks at Sacred Heart in the Potawatomi Nation, the mission was directed by Isidore Ricklin, O.S.B. (1862-1921). Born in Heidwedler, Alsace, he had been ordained at Buckfast Abbey, England, in 1889 and arrived at Sacred Heart the following year. In 1891 he was appointed to start the Anadarko mission for Kiowa and Comanche boys, the first Catholic effort on behalf of the Plains Indians of Oklahoma. The mission was funded in part by St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955), a Philadelphia heiress who had become a nun and who had used her great fortune to benefit American Indians and African Americans. The Franciscan Sisters of Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania, staffed St. Patrick's.

An adventuresome man who enjoyed native life, Ricklin found easy acceptance in the tribes to whom he ministered. Ranging over a wide mission area, he also provided services to the soldiers at Fort Sill. He built the original mission complex at Anadarko, then rebuilt it after a disastrous fire in 1909. He died at Anadarko on January 13, 1921. He was succeeded by his French-born assistant, Aloysius Hitta, O.S.B. (1877-1946), who directed the institution until his own death.

Between 1911 and 1933 St. Patrick's was an official federal Indian school called Anadarko Boarding School. Priests and sisters who staffed it held civil service positions under the Department of the Interior. St. Patrick's holds claim to having encouraged the aspirations of several of Oklahoma's leading Indian artists, including Acee Blue Eagle and Woody Crumbo.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Urban DeHasque, St. Patrick's Mission, Anadarko, Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, Okla.: St. Joseph's Orphanage, 1918). Luke Eric Lassiter, Clyde Ellis, and Ralph Kotay, The Jesus Road: Kiowas, Christianity, and Indian Hymns (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002). Joseph P. Murphy, O.S.B., Tenacious Monks: The Oklahoma Benedictines, 1875-1975 (Shawnee, Okla.: Benedictine Color Press, 1974).

James D. White

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