Excerpt: From the Boarding Schools

Arnold Krupat is a professor emeritus of global studies and literature at Sarah Lawrence College. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Boarding School Voices: Carlisle Indian School Students Speak (Nebraska, 2021) and Companion to James Welch’s “The Heartsong of Charging Elk” (Nebraska, 2015). His book From the Boarding Schools: Apache Indian Students Speak was published in April.

In this nonfiction book, Arnold Krupat makes available previously unheard Apache voices from the Indian boarding schools. It includes selections from two unpublished autobiographies by Sam Kenoi and Dan Nicholas, produced in the 1930s with the anthropologist Morris Opler, as well as material by and about Vincent Natalish, a contemporary of Kenoi and Nicholas.

Sam Kenoi’s School Years, as told by Himself

In his “A Chiricahua’s Account of the Geronimo Campaign of 1886,” Morris Opler wrote that the Apache man who had provided that account was Sam Kenoi, “a fifty-seven or fifty-eight-year-old man” (Opler 1938, 360) at the time Opler had worked with him in 1932. Kenoi confirms this as his age on the first page of his unpublished autobiography, where he states that he “was born in 1875” (Kenoi 193?, ms 1). Alicia Delgadillo gives his birthdate as “c. 1875” (Delgadillo 2013, 149), and this is roughly in accord with information from the Chilocco Indian School as well, where Kenoi’s age upon his enrollment in 1896 was recorded as nineteen, which would give him a birthdate of 1877. But later, when he entered Carlisle in 1899, the student file created for him listed his age as eighteen, which would make his date of birth 1881. Eve Ball, who knew Kenoi in the 1950s, also took 1881 as his date of birth (Ball et al. 1988, 106). But Sherry Robinson, who edited Ball’s papers, quotes material that—mistakenly—presumes him to have been born decades earlier. My guess is that the dates given by Opler and Kenoi himself, are probably more nearly correct, but that is by no means certain.

Not only are there several dates of birth for Sam Kenoi, but there are several English names for him as well. (I have found no mention of what his Apache name might have been.) He enrolled at Chilocco as Sam E. Keno, and at Carlisle as Sam Keno. But he signed his name Samuel E. Kenoi on a student survey he returned to Carlisle in 1910, and Kenoi was the name by which Morris Opler referred to him in their work together in the 1930s and in his later publications. At Fort Sill, as we will see, Dan Nicholas called him Sam Chino, and after 1913, when he left Fort Sill for the Mescalero reservation and became active in tribal affairs, he was known almost exclusively as Sam Chino. He had a son named Sam Kenoi Jr., as I learned from Professor Anthony Webster, who had met him at Mescalero (pers. comm., November 12, 2021), and another son, Wendell Chino, who was elected to many terms as Mescalero tribal chairman. Wendell’s son, Mark Chino, Sam’s grandson, also served as tribal chair and lives at Mescalero at the time of writing. Eve Ball referenced Sam Kenoi both as Kenoi and as Sam Chino. Alicia Delgadillo records him as Sam Kenoi, although she also gives “Keano, Keeno, and Keno” as alternate spellings (Delgadillo 2013, 149) of his name, with no mention of “Chino.” I use Kenoi because that was Morris Opler’s practice, and it is Opler’s work with him that I am presenting.

But whichever name one may use, there remains the question of how or from whom he got that name. Alicia Delgadillo wrote that Kenoi “was a son of Tsaltaykoo and David Fatty” (149), although she had earlier said that Fatty was “Kenoi’s (Samuel) stepfather” (84, my emphasis), not his biological father. In her commentary on “Sam Kenoi” based mostly on Eve Ball’s work, Sherry Robinson affirms that David Fatty was Kenoi’s stepfather (Robinson 2000, 106), and much later in her book claims that “Sam Chino said his father was a Chiricahua named José Mario” (250n23), a name I have found nowhere else. Kenoi’s mother, Tsaltaykoo, is said to have married David Fatty after her husband, Sam’s father, died. That marriage would have had to have occurred before 1892, because that was the year Tsaltaykoo herself “probably died in Alabama” (Delgadillo 2013, 259). Speaking of that period to Eve Ball in 1954, Kenoi said, “My relatives were dead. . . . And I was an orphan. My father was not living; my stepfather did not like me. So I cook for myself; I pull out and go to Chilocco in 1895” (Ball 197?a).

But more than twenty years earlier, on the first page of the autobiography he had done with Morris Opler, Sam Kenoi said, “My father must be about eighty-eight now” (Kenoi 193?, ms 1). That was about 1932, and it means that his father would indeed have been living at the time his mother married David Fatty and many years later as well. In fact, the first three chapters of the autobiography Kenoi produced with Opler deal with his father. They are called: “How my father got his masked dancer ceremony,” “My father’s curing ceremony,” and “My father’s curing ceremony for blindness.” In those chapters, Kenoi describes in great detail how his father obtained strong healing powers, reports that he had served in the 1880s as a U.S. army scout—in order to “make peace and bring [the resisting Apaches] in” (ms 2), and that he “sometimes came to Mescalero. This was before he was married” (ms 3). That would be after 1913, and surely references his father’s second (or third) marriage, well after the death of his first wife—Sam’s mother. I cannot resolve the apparent contradictions, and note only that for all his willingness to talk of his father, Sam Kenoi does not once give his name.

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