Tushka Lusa Academy Part 2
The first administrator of the Choctaw Freedman school of Tushka Lusa Institute that became known as Tushkalusa Academy was Henry Nail. Not much is known about his background, but he was a Choctaw Freedman, and he lived in the same Talihina Community where the school was established.
The academy was located 3 miles southeast of Talihina Indian Territory, and although there were other schools for Freedmen in other parts of the Choctaw Nation, it apppears that Tushka Lusa was the premiere school. The enrollment was never more than 40 nor was it intended for any larger number, so selection and admission to the school would clearly have been viewed as a special privilege.
Tushka Lusa Academy provided basic education and was not a secondary school. However, many of the students were actually in their teen years. The school was divided into five grades and the basic subjects of Reading, Arithmetic, Geography, Spelling, Writing and Phonics were taught. This was clearly outlined in the annual report sent by Henry Nail to the officials of the Choctaw Nation.
Page 1 of Annual Report from Tushka Lusa Academy by Henry Nail to the Choctaw Nation
For third and fourth graders, Grammar was added and for the Fifth Grade History and Dictionary were added to their course of study.
2nd Page of Annual Report from Tushka Lusa Academy by Henry Nail
The enrollment however was always small and it was always planned to keep the number of pupils at Tushka Lusa at 35-40 students. This issue was of great concern to many of the parents wishing to have their children enrolled at this tribally funded institution. The schools for Choctaws "by blood" had an enrollment of 100 students each. A group of Choctaw Freedmen who lived in various parts of the Choctaw Nation from Atoka, to Stringtown to Tushkahoma, were very interested in having their children given the opportunity to attend the academy. They wrote a letter in 1893 to the Choctaw Nation, requesting that the enrollment be increased so that their children could also attend. A copy of the letter appears below.
Request from Choctaw Freedmen parents to the Choctaw Nation
to increase student enrollment at Tushka Lusa Academy. ( Written in September 1893)
Names of parents requesting increase in enrollment for their own children
It is not known how many teachers were at Tushka Lusa, however these few names are known: Henry Nail, Superintendant; Dora E. Johnson, Principal; Julia Coleman, 1st Assistant.
Henry Nail was a well known and respected Choctaw Freedman, and Dora Johnson had formerly been a teacher. Dora E. Johnson was a teacher who lived at one time in South Central Texas in Luling Texas as a teacher. In the early 1890s she was a teacher there.
One of the most exciting thing about locating school records is the possibility that names of students can be found. I was fortunate that when I examined the papers from Tushka Lusa, there were lists of students who attended the academy. The lists are only from the early years of the school, but they are nevertheless significant and they are lists from which we can see and to learn.
1894 StudentsThis is a list of the students recorded in 1894. The lists were prepared by Mrs. Dora E. Johnson as part of official reports that were eventually sent to the Choctaw Nation.
List of Girls attending Tushka Lusa Academy in 1894
Amanda Peachlyn (sic)
Male Students Tushka Lusa Academy 1894
Miles Burras (sic)
Walton Shoat (sic)
(Note the name Burras was most likely Burris, a surname still found in the LeFlore County and McCurtain County areas by Choctaw Freedmen descendants. The name Shoat was most likely Choate, which is also a surname found in the same community among Choctaw Freedmen. The name Peachlynn [see names of Girl students] was most likely Pitchlynn, a prominent name in the Choctaw Nation.)
So little is known about the experience of the students and the eventual fate of this little known Freedman school. By the mid 20th century, the school had ceased to exist. Very few residents of Talihina even recall the presence of a black population in the town let alone a boarding school . Sadly all traces of Tushka Lusa Academy are now gone. There are so many stories hidden in the trees southeast of this small Oklahoma town, and hopefully someday more will be known of this school.
I was happy to have found these records of Tushka Lusa and hope that someone with a strong sense of curiosity and history will begin to explore the outskirts of the town, and may someday find that remnants of the school and lives of those who were once a part of this forgotten community.
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(Special thanks to Eric Standrige of Wister Oklahoma
for sharing the long lost image of Tushka Lusa Academy.)