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This unique exhibit features letters written by several early Haskell Institute students, including Hugh Tossett, a Comanche boy who attended Haskell between 1884 and 1897, held in the collections of the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, as well as those obtained from the Governor Charles Robinson Collection at the Kansas State Historical Society.

In 2012 the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum was extremely fortunate to be gifted a series of letters written in 1895 and 1896 by Hugh Tossett. Tossett, a Comanche Haskell student, was around eighteen years old at the time he wrote these letters to Frank D. Baldwin, the resident agent of his home agency. These letters were found nearly fifty years before in a building in Anadarko, Oklahoma that had previously served as an office for the local Indian Agency serving the Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Tribes. The letters were found stuffed inside the walls of the building for insulation.

These letters reflect a vast difference in the students’ experiences and the treatment they received between the 1880s, when the Robinson letters were written, versus the late 1890s, when the Tossett letters were written. However, despite the differences, the level of control exercised over most aspects of the students’ lives remained the same.

Rarely were the requests of parents or students granted. Initially, the only way a student went home before their term was up was because of sickness or by desertion, although the students were often caught and sent back. In one case documented here, even the last request of a dying man to see his children before his death was denied.

One of the most valuable facets of these letters is their ability to accurately represent Native American people of the late 19th century as thoughtful and intelligent people who were still very much in the process of adapting to mainstream American culture.


Haskell Institute, ca. 1890

Haskell Cultural Center and Museum Archival Collection

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