Former Oaks Indian Mission children reunite
Sol Mockicin, left, who lived at Oaks Indian Mission for 12 years in his youth, jokes with fellow mission alumni at an April 6 reunion on campus. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Twins Ray Grass and Fay Arneecher, of Locust Grove, attend a reunion at Oaks Indian Mission on April 6. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Oaks Indian Mission alumni Fay Arneecher, of Locust Grove, left, and Bobby Joe Sapp, of Bull Hollow, talk April 6 on the mission grounds. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
OAKS – Children raised at Oaks Indian Mission gathered on April 6 to eat, sing, pray, tour the grounds and reminisce about their childhoods.
“It’s changed a lot,” Bobby Joe Sapp, now 71, recalled during the alumni reunion. “But there’s a lot of stuff I remember. That creek back there, we’d swim in that in December.”
Sol Mockicin lived at the mission for 12 years with nine brothers and sisters from the Bull Hollow community in southeastern Delaware County.
“I came in 1948,” he said, adding that instead of using mowers, mission children rounded up nearby sheep for the lawn-care task. “But we ended up riding the sheep. In a mile of this area, there wasn’t an animal not trained to ride, thanks to the mission kids.”
Oaks Indian Mission has for decades cared for abused, abandoned or neglected children from various tribes and backgrounds. There are a total of 20 children living in Oaks’ three cottages.
“You know, that sounds like probably a lot less than what you’ve known from your time here,” Oaks Indian Mission Executive Director Don Marshall told the 30-plus in attendance. “We found that about six or seven kids per cottage right now is kind of the max of what cottage parents can handle, and 20 is about what our staff can handle. Everybody asks how many kids are here. Obviously it’s an important question. But, I think the greater question is what we can do with the kids that are here. It’s not quantity, but the quality of the care we can give the kids that are here.”
Sapp remembers a busier Oaks.
“There was a lot of kids here back then,” he said. “The boys, about 80 or 90 kids, stayed in that dorm right there.”
Marshall also touched on changes over the decades.
“The culture was different,” he said. “It’s a different kid that’s here now. Kids are here for shorter periods of time, it seems like. The kids right now, since I’ve been doing this as director, tend to be older, like high school age.”
Fay Arneecher, who turns 73 in May, said she lived among other mission children ranging in age from 5 to 18.
“But we all got along,” she said.
Her twin brother, Ray Grass, an artist and Cherokee Nation citizen, said he has “a lot of good memories here.”
“You can look at this like a school reunion,” he said, “but for us who’ve been together so many years, it’s almost close to a family reunion.”
Opened in 1926, Oaks Indian Mission today is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. A majority of the mission’s funding originates from individual donations and congregations of the Lutheran church.
“Right now it takes roughly $700,000 a year to run the Oaks Indian Mission,” Marshall said. “About 95 percent of that $700,000 has to come from donations. The beauty of the Oaks is that it’s funded by the church, by the Christian community. Therefore, there is an emphasis on the faith that’s anchored in the church over here.”
The reunion’s guest speaker was Dr. Irv Janssen, a longtime Oaks supporter, whose subject was “moral injury” versus post-traumatic stress disorder.