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The mission of Goodland Academy 

   In 1848, full-time minister John Lanthrop and his wife took up residency on the grounds of present day Yakni Achukma, or Good Land. They built the first manse and ministered for two years to the Choctaw people. As they returned home in 1850, Rev. Oliver Porter Goodland 4Stark and his wife Margaret were assigned to Good Land. Margaret began teaching four young Choctaw boys in her home with the Bible as her only textbook. Two years later, her school had grown to 42 students meeting in the church on the Goodland campus.

Right - The first dormitory built on Goodland's campus in 1887.

   Silas Bacon was the first Superintendent of Goodland Academy. He housed and educated over 200 children during his tenure from 1901 until his death in 1921. His mission, stated very simply and clearly, was to provide the children the best education. He made education the highest priority.

    Silas's mission is still followed today at Goodland Academy in Hugo. "Goodland Academy has a proud tradition of providing an outstanding education for its students," stated Goodland Academy President David Dearinger. Dearinger has been employed by Goodland for 22 years.

    Currently Goodland is school to about 24 children 1/3 of them being Choctaw, and about 14 staff members. There are residence halls available only to boys as of now, but Goodland 3Goodland has big plans for the future. "We'll be able to hold 128 kids," said Dearinger. "Currently we don't have the facilities to hold any more." Goodland plans to expand its campus from a 10-acre campus to a 90-acre campus. The entire school will be able to hold 200 kids like it did in the past.

Right:  Goodland students in 1887.

    Goodland Academy is completely funded by individual donations without any federal or state funding. Goodland receives donations from a variety of generous donors including individuals from Tulsa, Oklahoma City and two owners of the Oklahoma City Thunder professional basketball team. They also receive donations from numerous churches and organizations, including the Choctaw Nation. "A lot of individuals have been giving for 30 or 40 years," said Dearinger. "Generous donations keep us alive."

    Most of the buildings on Goodland's campus were built in the 1920's. In 1945, there was a devastating tornado that destroyed the campus. The rock buildings survived, but the frame buildings had to be repaired and were used until around 1960, when the dormitories being used now were constructed. Today there are several historical buildings that still serve the students. A rock building that was built as a hospital in 1935 is now used for the Boy Scout meeting place and a residence for a staff member. The Goodland gymnasium was built in 1936 and it "utilized all the time," Goodland 1according to Dearinger. It has been renovated with glass backboards and new bleachers. The schoolroom across the way from the gym, also built in 1935, contains five rooms and is hoped to be renovated to be used for classrooms. The Goodland Chapel was built in 1854 still stands on Goodland campus today.

Right: Goodland Academy President David Dearinger displays the upcoming architectural changes for Goodland Academy.

   It contains the original pews and pulpit. "When the alumni come, they sit in the same spots they sat in when they were kids," said a smiling Dearinger. "The girls sat on one side, the boys on the other." You can also find a "courting circle" on Goodland's campus that dates back to the 1950's. This concrete circle was the only place boys and girls could sit and talk to each other.

    Goodland's educational system is the same subjects taught in public schools. It holds students from grades Kindergarten to 12th grade and is free of charge to attend. There are no requirements to enroll in Goodland. Unlike public schools, Goodland provides children with "self-paced" educational system. There's no competition in class and there's no failure. If a child doesn't do well on an assignment, they continue to work on it until they learn it and have a passing grade. "80 and above is a passing grade," explained Dearinger. "Anything below that they need to work on it a little bit more." All the kids in one grade are in one room and have booklets they work through. When they finish one with a passing grade, they move on to the next one.

   The most important thing to Goodland is putting the child's learning above anything else. Goodland makes provisions for kids with special needs so they can learn to the best of their ability. "A lot of these kids have ADD and ADHD," explained Dearinger, "so they get distracted very easily." In this case, the child can have his or her own "cubical" to work in so they can successfully get their work finished.  

   Goodland's self-paced learning system proves to be successful looking at its alumni. "A lot of our kids that graduate have either finished college or going to school for their master's degree," said Dearinger. One student is getting his degree in international business and has spent a year in Germany. "Our students do very well. Throughout my 22 years here I've seen kids graduate and become attorneys." Some Goodland alumni include the late Charlie Jones, who served as a councilman for the Choctaw Nation and some of the Choctaw code-talkers. Choctaw tribal Chaplain Bertram Bobb is also a Goodland graduate. Dearinger recalled Choctaw Nation councilman the late Randall Durant saying  'I am where I am today because of Goodland.' "He used to say that with tears in his eyes," remembered Dearinger.

   Pairing up with its education system, Goodland provides several extra-curricular activities to its students. Goodland has a 390-acre ranch with over 100 head of black Brangus cattle, 22 horses, llamas and goats that the kids work with. There is also a 10-acre lake where the kids can go fishing in the afternoons for their P.E. time. Goodland acquired its horses because the Choctaw Nation donated five horses in the past, and the number increased over the years. Though these horses aren't broken so they aren't available to ride, the kids learn how to groom, walk and train them with the help of the ranch manager. The students who are interested in agriculture can talk with the agriculture instructor. Students are able to participate in various livestock shows as well. Goodland has a basketball Goodland 2and flag-football team. "Our basketball team is very good," said a proud Dearinger. "We won a trophy last year in a tournament." Goodland's sports teams compete with mainly private schools.

Right:  Goodland students Christian, Hunter and Clinton take a break and smile for the camera.

   Along with its several extra-curricular activities, Goodland also gives their boys the opportunity to participate in its Boy Scout unit that has been in operation since 1931. "We're real proud of our scout program," exclaimed Dearinger. "We've kept it going over the years and we got two eagle scouts two months ago and we've got two more coming up."

   Goodland Academy gets visited by many youth groups every year. There's as many as 24 to 26 groups that come from as far as West Virginia and South Dakota. They range from junior high groups to college groups. These youth groups spend time with the kids and get to know them. "I think it's an important thing to our kids," explained Dearinger. "They connect with them and stay in touch." In one year's time, Goodland sees about 300 to 350 people come visit and work with the children.  

   Goodland Academy is the oldest agency in the state of Oklahoma who continues operation. It has been educating students for 162 years and plans to expand is area to hold up to 200 children. "We get phone calls every day from people interested in enrolling their child in Goodland," said Dearinger. "We have to turn kids away because we don't have enough room." Because of Goodland's limited space for students and funding, the school has been at full occupancy for the past several years, therefore isn't able to admit as many kids as apply. "We're hoping to break ground when we get the first bit of money coming in," said Dearinger. "We're in the process."

    If you are interested in making a donation to Goodland Academy, you can visit their website at and click on "Donation" at the top of the page. You can also call Goodland at 580-326-7568. Proceeds will go to improving the campus of Goodland Academy and making a better learning environment for the children.

This article and others came from the Choctaw Nation Biskinik. To see more history please refer to the following sites.
Sounds of Choctaw - Social Greeting
Sounds of Choctaw - Weather
Lesson of the Day