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Did You Know? 

  • Oklahoma higher education institutions have the highest percentage of Native American student population in the nation.
  • Oklahoma is home to 43 Native American tribes or bands with a combined membership of 294,464, the second highest in the nation. (Oklahoma Quick Facts, U.S. Census Bureau, 2009)
  • In 1869, an Indian Agency was established a few miles north of what is now downtown El Reno.
  • Redlands Community College (located in El Reno, Oklahoma) occupies thirty-three acres of red dirt in the heart of "Indian Country."

Founded in 1938 as "El Reno Junior College," Redlands changed its name in 1991 to better reflect the heritage and geography of western Oklahoma.  This region of the state, like Oklahoma as a whole, is inextricably linked to the history and destiny of Native Americans.

Oklahoma is home to 43 Native American tribes or bands with a combined membership of 294,464 (Oklahoma Quick Facts, U.S. Census Bureau, 2009), the second highest in the nation.  For centuries, nomadic tribes of the Great Plains region, including the Kiowa and the Apache, followed migrating herds through what is now western and central Oklahoma.  Other tribes, including the Cheyenne-Arapaho and their most famous leader, Black Kettle, signed peace treaties with the federal government in the mid-1800's giving up land in nearby states in exchange for settlement in the area.  The Caddo, originally residing in the river valleys of east Texas, northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas, were resettled twice within a generation: first removed to north Texas (1837) before finally being settled in western Oklahoma (1859).  All of the peace treaties proved to be short-lived.  Black Kettle himself was killed by George Armstrong Custer less than two years after moving his tribe from Colorado to the Indian Territory.

In 1869, an Indian Agency was established a few miles north of what is now downtown El Reno.  The Darlington Agency served the Wichita, Caddo, Comanche, Cheyenne-Arapaho, Kiowa, and Apache tribes being forcibly resettled in the surrounding countryside.  In the 1870's and 1880's, westward migration of white pioneers put increasing pressure on the government to open up the "reserved" Indian lands for white settlement.  This pressure eventually culminated in the infamous "Land Runs" of the 1890's and the reservation lands were cut up, piece by piece, to be sold or given to non-Indian settlers.  On August 6, 1901, the remaining reserved acres of the Darlington Agency tribes were sold by lottery to white settlers.  It is still considered one of the darkest days in the history of our state.

The legacy of broken promises had a profound impact on shaping the lives of Native Americans in this region.  The tribes paid a steep price for "assimilation" into the larger non-Native society.  Over time, Oklahoma has slowly come to embrace the rich heritage and culture of Native Americans.  This pride is expressed in the state's license plate which reads "Oklahoma IS Native America," and in the design of the state flag incorporating a traditional shield and pipe and in the proliferation of and recognition for Native American art and artisans in the state.  Since 1987, Oklahoma City has hosted the Red Earth Festival, one of the world's largest and most distinguished celebrations of Native American art and culture.  However, in terms of economic well-being and educational attainment, Native Americans still fall far behind residents who belong to other ethnic groups.  Much work remains to be done.

Redlands is dedicated to improving the lives of the region's tribal population by promoting activities and programs which foster economic and educational achievement among these disadvantaged constituents. Both the Cheyenne-Arapaho and Caddo tribes are headquartered within the College's service area.  Both tribes offer encouragement and assistance to members seeking higher education opportunities, including those at Redlands.  Since 2008, the Native American student enrollment at Redlands has steadily increased, climbing from 7.8% (fall, 2008) to 13.3% (fall, 2010) of Redlands' total enrollment.  As part of the larger mission of the college, Redlands is committed to increasing the postsecondary persistence and success of these students and collecting and analyzing data to improve the quality of institutional decision-making on behalf of Native American student outcomes.