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Notes on the Geography of Oklahoma: Oklahoma Indian Affairs

Anadarko and the Medicine Bluffs can represent Oklahoma's Indian present and past.

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Southwest of Oklahoma City, Anadarko is a major center for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It's housed outside of town in a building that looks as though it's designed to repel restless natives.

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Try to get away with this in Boston or Berkeley!  It's OK in Anadarko. (Try the 200 block of S.W. Broadway.)

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A few blocks away: a residential district.

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Detour! For many years, Indian children in Oklahoma were taken here, to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There they learned skills that separated them from their parents. The school, now an Army college, has an Indian cemetery with small bones from many states.

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Pride in the past remains strong, though. Here's a bit of that past. Medicine Creek flows through the Wichita Mountains on its way to East Cache Creek and the Red River. It looks about the way it did to Comanche warriors 200 years ago. Ironically, that's because this is part of Fort Sill, the U.S. Army's longtime artillery school. 

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Indians of several tribes used the Medicine Bluffs as a physical and spiritual hospital, a place to which the sick were carried to find health or, according to some, as a place to which warriors came to seek greater strength. The army has closed the top to the public, but the base is a picnic area, with the creek ponded by a small dam to form a swimming hole.

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A little tricky getting this photo. Story is that a few years ago a fellow leaned over. Something fell from his breast pocket. He reached out to catch it. 

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Pool at the base.

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A mile to the east, a plaque marks the spring from which Fort Sill once took its domestic water supply.

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Fort Sill has some of the handsomest housing in all of Oklahoma.

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A very few miles away, and still on the base, there's an Apache cemetery, leftover from the days when the Apache were confined to Fort Sill. The tombstones are standard except for this one. Any guesses?

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Aha! The grave changes every day, with new offerings.

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The shelf for unsmoked cigarettes was recently removed, but cigarettes are still a common gift, along with money.

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The strung bow over the grave is a reminder that all is not forgiven or accepted. Another indicator of that seething anger is the belief that Geronimo is not buried here at all--but elsewhere, at a place undefiled.

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Ironically, the army itself has been very respectful.

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The western end of the Wichita Mountains is a wildlife refuge where, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, efforts began to save the bison.

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Farther west--west of Anadarko--there's the sacred place called Rainy Mountain.  It rises near the great bend of the Washita River and near the dying town of Gotebo. This is the same Rainy Mountain about which N. Scott Momaday has written.


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