Reunion, museum planned at Oaks Indian Mission

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
03/11/2019 09:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Oaks Indian Mission alumnus Sol Mockicin leads a March 5 meeting to fine-tune details of an upcoming Mission Children Alumni Reunion at the mission in southern Delaware County. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Oaks Indian Mission alumni and reunion organizers, from left, Sol Mockicin, Eliza Deere, Terry Rattlinggourd, Karen Littledave, Sally Kingfisher and Dale Kingfisher gather March 5 outside a building that will house the first Oaks Indian Mission museum. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
This turn-of-the-century building near the Oaks Indian Mission is being remodeled to serve as a museum. The Oaks Indian Mission cares for abused, abandoned or neglected children from different tribes and tribal backgrounds. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A collection of early photographs from the Oaks Indian Mission. Mission alumni are Oaks Mission alumni are working to open a museum about its history. COURTESY
OAKS – Former “mission kids” are planning to reunite in this small community next month, then open doors to a museum that will highlight nearly 100 years of history of the Oaks Indian Mission.

Mission alumni who attended between the 1940s and 1960s are leading the reunion effort. Sol Mockicin, 76, lived at the mission for 12 years with a host of brothers and sisters from the Bull Hollow community in southeastern Delaware County.

“There were 10 of us children who stayed here,” he said. “We were put here to further our education.”

One of his younger brothers and fellow “mission kid,” Simeon Gipson, 73, noted the children’s home provided “our first indoor bath, our first electricity, our first television.”

Another reunion organizer, Terry Rattlinggourd, 71, of Pryor, also attended the mission as a child.
“Everything I have gone through in life I learned here,” he said. “I was only 6 years old when I came here. In 12 years, I learned to respect, to honor, to trust, all of that.”

Eliza Deere spent the final five years of her school days at Oaks.

“I learned here how to take care of myself out there,” she said.

Oaks Indian Mission cares for abused, abandoned or neglected children from different tribes and tribal backgrounds across Oklahoma.

There are currently 20 children living in cottages on the campus. It takes approximately $20,000 a week to run the mission, Mockicin said. An estimated 90 percent of the mission’s funding originates from individual donations and congregations of the Lutheran church.

The Rev. Don Marshall, the mission’s executive director, has a decades-long relationship with Oaks in varying capacities.

“I think there’s something sacred about these grounds,” he said. “To walk across campus is to feel the Lord’s presence in this place.”

Thousands of Native American youth have lived at the children’s home since it was established in 1926.

“It was one of the first missions and schools here in Indian territory,” Marshall said.

The mission was established in 1801 in Georgia, according to historical records. The Moravian Church opened New Springplace near present-day Oaks in 1842 following the forced removal of Cherokee people commonly known as the Trail of Tears. In 1902, the Moravian Mission passed its heritage onto the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Eben Ezer Lutheran Church was established in 1903. The mission for children was opened in 1926. Children attend the nearby Oaks Public School.

The alumni reunion is planned for 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., April 6 at the Oaks Indian Mission. A reunion in 2018 attracted an estimated 50 attendees. Between 40 to 60 are expected this year.

Mockicin and Gipson, along with other alumni, are also establishing a museum to collect Oaks’ rich history in one location.

The yet-to-be-named museum will be housed inside a turn-of-the-century, rock-faced building once used as a parsonage on the mission campus. Helping pay for indoor remodeling is a $65,000 donation from “a humble Danish couple,” according to the museum board of directors.

However, the museum will not rely heavily upon period-specific artifacts due to limited space.

“The real documentation of history is just that – documents, letters, pictures, policy statements, listings of the children,” Mockicin said. “It’s a wonderful history few people know about.”

Initially, volunteers will likely staff the museum two days a week, Gipson said.

“Then we’ll get the feel of it,” he added.

An opening date is tentatively planned for late April.

The mission is located at 155 Military Road in Oaks. For more information, call 918-868-2196 or visit oaksindianmission.org.
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