Title: Kenneth Harris
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Title: Kenneth Harris
Series Title: Kenneth Harris
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W: This is an interview with Alfred K. Harris, of Rockhill, an interview

n the Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,

Reekill, November 16. This is Leborn Lee Whitesell doing the


W: Kelley, would you tell us who you are?

H: Well, I'll start by giving you a little history. I was born February 27,

1948, here in York County) t viJ( iC r r^ef O l 4 t. uA f IC Uf L 'i ,v

I went to the Catawba Indian School for my first four years of education.

And then I went dRwn to the other public schools, Lesslie, Seldon Junior
Z /ct i /1
High School, and2teekhill High School, where I graduated in 1967. Most

of my time in high school I was active i church organizations, and not

too active in school organizations ,4 4A L like some people I

guess. From high school, I went straight to Brigham Young University.

I majored in economics and political science and mathematics. When I

graduated I returned here, I came home. I came home for a couple of

years, and as far as I'm concerned right now, I don't know how long

I'll be here. I worked for a year for J.C. Stevens in a management

production program. I decided I didn't like 't, =5 I quit a couple of f

month ago. I have just a regular job now at -A r S. r ,~4i be ?)

I'm planning to try counseling or some other profession outside of

business, and maybe work my way back to law school. I'm living with

my parents right now. And I'm active in church. I'm coaching a

basketball team right now, that I really enjoy. I really enjoy

? 7


H: ...working with the young boys, six or eight. I also teach a pre-school

class on Sunday mornings. I'm a substitute Sunday school teacher, which

I really enjoy. And I'm a irst counselor in the

.j/r Q.: So I'm mostly involved with young people.

W: Do you like working with young people?

H: I like it very much. ,. C

W: We'll get back to that in a minute #l-y. I'd like to ask you, did

you go to school at the school on the reservation?

H: Yes, because, well when I first started school was Catawba Indian

school, publicly financed, but it was an all-Indian school. I went

there for my first four years.

W: How many classes did they have down there then?

H: Well, four. It had two classrooms, two classes per teacher.

W: Grades one through four?

H: Right.

W: Do you remember any of the teachers?

H: Yeah I do. I remember Miss Cornish was a real sweet lady, I really

liked her. I remember Miss Robinson too, and I remember the cook,

Miss Arzada, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and her husband was the janitor. I guess

that was about the only four grownups in the whole school that I can

remember being around.

W: That was Arzada Sanders?

H: Right.

W: And what was her husband's...?

H; Idle Sanders.

W: Idle Sanders. What were some of the subjects that you studied there,

do you remember?


H: It seemed like we had a lot of English and phonics. I remember that

a lot, especially for Miss Cornish in the first two years. I remember

working with numbers a good bit. One thing I remember about school was

we'seemed :to always be putting:on plays. People would be coming down

to visit because we were an Indian school, kind of unique I guess. And

they wondered what Indians looked like, and what we did and everything.

We had visitors from time to time from other schools, and we'd put on

plays. And it seemed like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Valentines,

we were always preparing for a little play or something. I remember

that, and I think I enjoyed it a lot. I don't know if the schools have

it that way now or not, I don't think they do.

W: You mean people from other schools would come down and view your plays?

H: Yeah, some Girl Scout groups, other classes from other schools.

W: Did you get to talk with them afterwards?

W: Yeah, usually they'd bring something with them there, like refreshments,

they'd give us some cookies or something. I guess they kind of felt

like we didn't know what cookies were or something, I don't know. Some-

times around Christmas time, some people would come down, and they'd

bring a gift with them, you know, for the members of the class.

W: ,. (&. vi/ /'/$- "T -, What about the recreation

down there?

H: I don't know what you mean.

W: At school I was thinking, really, more or less, what did you play at

recess might be a better way?


H: Oh, I guess just normal games. We played dodge ball a lot. I remember

when they put up those basketball backboards down there, in my first

year there. We played basketball a lot. The teachers would go out and

play with us a lot COwl 'IT ) IM To They played dodge

ball with us. And on pretty spring days sometimes they'd let us stay

out a little bit longer than normal. We'd stay out and have a long

recess. And sometimes when it would be nice, they'd let us out a little

bit early so we could play before it was time to go home. And as far

as recreation, I guess we played about the same games that other

children do.

W: You usually think of Indians as excelling in sports, particularly

anything to do with running. Do you fall into that category Kelley?

H: Not necessarily, no. I enjoy sports, but I don't think any more so

than most of my non-Indian friends. I'm not particularly that good

either. I play a lot, but I have a, have some, you know, I have some

friends and cousins that are excellent athletes, but I don't fall in

that category at all.

W: You look like an athlete, but maybe a little more business, do you

think so?

H: No, I don't fit in that category either I'm afraid.

W: Just all around, huh?

H: Yeah.

W: What about when you began school at Leslie?

H: Oh, let's see. I remember a lot there. I loved my teacher, which was

Mrs. Weaver, she was an excellent teacher. And I really picked up in

my grades then, that was the first time I really excelled in my grades.


H: It was hard at first. It was a lot larger, a lot more people. I think

I had it a little bit easier than some of the Indian kids that went

there, at first. They had a, some of them, some had a chip on their

shoulder when they first went. Some of them were behind in school a

little bit, a little bit older than the fifth graders that normally go

in the fifth grade there. And they had some problems, but I didn't,

that I can recall. I made a lot of new friends, some of them that are

still my friends today.

W: Do you think that maybe being good at your leasons then might have

helped you some?

H: I think so, yeah. I know it did with the teacher because I really

enjoyed her, and she seemed to enjoy me.

W: Do you think it was better because having been a Catawba?

H: Well, in some ways I do. It's kind of hard to explain. It's sort of,

I'd like to say it's inherited, but it's not, I guess it's something

that we learn, something that we're conditioned to. But an Indian

child is a little bit more backwards, a little bit less likely to speak

up. A little less likely to be forward, like a teacher likes to see a

student. I think the first four years at the Indian school gave me a

little bit more confidence. I had made, I had pretty good grades, and

I knew I could compete. Now, when they have to adjust to the first

grade, that, there were students that maybe were a little bit more

forward. The teachers don't recognize this. I really don't know. I've

noticed it in a lot of Indians, different Indians, that I've met, from

different tribes. Indians seem to be a little bit inhibited to speak

out, to be the first to say something. I think my little sister had a


H: few problems when she first went to school. I knew she could read good,

she did really good for me at home. But she got to school and she was

a little bit afraid. She'd come across a word she wasn't sure of, she

wouldn't say it. So the teacher naturally thought, you know, she wasn't

able to sayi't? Where I think that she was, she was just a little bit

afraid. I think maybe attending Indian school for a couple of years

would have given her the confidence that she needed. But too, I think

that it's important to adjust as soon as you can to the society in

which you are competing. And I find, looking at the young students

now, the real early ones, the first, second, and third graders, that

once they get that start, and once they get that confidence, they

compete very well. They're very competitive with non-Indian students.

W: What about your experience in the junior high, did you have any changes

there, \', r J $ : k.,?

H: No, I can't remember any. I remember that that was the first experience

I had with organized sports I guess, organized football, organized

basketball. And I enjoyed that. It was a lot larger then, but I can't

remember anything particular about it.

W: You went to Rockv*i+e High? Did you have any particular difficulties

or problems there?

H: No, not that I can remember. Looking back on it now, I wish I had been

more active in school activities, in school clubs and things of this

nature. I wasn't, I was more active in the church. When I was sixteen

and seventeen I started working in M.I.A., things like this, and that

took most of my time, or at least it satisfied me, I had to be in

organizations and clubs and stuff. And that's the only thing .e I


H: ...can think of that might have been a little bit different. Most of

my friends were active in some club in high school, and I wasn't.

W: Do you think that had anything to do with the fact that you had further

to go, home in the evening?

H: For athletes, with football teams, and stuff like this, I'm sure it did.

I had a problem getting back and forth. But there were organizations

that I could've, I mean it wouldn't have conflicted with that I don't


W: Do you think this had something to do with your later life, having an

experience maybe with a club or a group?

H: I don't think so, because I was pretty active during college. I think

I compensated for it. I went to a lot of organizations, service

organizations, while I was in college.

W: When you were in high school, did you know then that you were going to


H: Well, I had a lot of big plans, I didn't know how they were going to

work out. My family didn't feel they were financially able to send me

when I first started, when I first started thinking about going to

school, to college. But like I said, I had a lot of big dreams, and a

lot of hopes. I'd been planning on it for a long time.

W: Do you think that there could have been some Indian courses taught

when you were there?

H: I think I could have enjoyed some if they were. I don't think that

with the number of Indian students that are in a high school it would

have been practical. I think maybe it could have been handled on a

tribal basis, outside of the school, because I would have enjoyed,


H: ...maybe, an Indian Club. But I don't know if there's enough Indian

students to even have a good organization or not. There's only,

maybe, ten, at one time,-Indians in the high school, you know, as they

progress along.

W: What made you decide on Brigham Young University eol~ y?

H: Oh, I really don't know. I just remember one time when I was in eighth

grade, my teacher was talking about the curriculum for high school.

She asked me if I was planning to go to college, and I said "Yeah."

And she said, "Where are you going to go?" And I said, "If I go, I'll

go to Brigham Young." I had a tuition scholarship my freshman year,

to Brigham Young, that was a big factor. The American Indian Education

Award paid my tuition that year, and I had it another year, I think my

junior year. I've always wanted to go to a Mormon community. I don't

know, I have a cousin that's been there, Phyllis, her name's Phyllis

Williams now, It was Phyllis Beck she's been there, and she'd

always told me how great it was, how she liked it, and I guess S~
C~,~~~If N % e wicc,

W: Are these American, is this American Indian Education Award?

H: Right.

W: Are these offered every year to Indian students?

H: Well, it's limited in a lot of ways. If an Indian student can get

assistance from another organization, like the Bureau of Indian Affairs,

tribal assistance, this award is not open to him. \o-- a get

the award, and you compete for it, according to grades, needs, and

other things I guess.

W: Well that's great, that's nice. Will other Indians in th' Area- have

this opportunity now, is it still open, the program?


H: Yes it is. I think it's expanding. More private foundations are donating

money through the Brigham University Indian Education Department. And

if they get more money, they'll open it up to more Indian students. But

when I started, I think it was open to just a few Indian students.

W: And this is through Brigham Young?

H: Right.

W: Do you know if they are offering this through any schools ih'this area?

H: No, no it's only through Brigham Young.

W: Uh huh, this was through Brigham Young. Well, what happened when you

got your scholarship and headed for Brigham Young, your first year?

H: Well, I was scared, when I first got there I was homesick a lot. I

missed my parents, I missed the things they did for me. I wasn't used

to taking care of myself. When I first got there, I decided that there

was no way I could make it, but there was also no way I could go back

home. I'd been planning on it so long, and my parents were pretty well

caught up in it, and they were excited about what had happened. I

knew I couldn't go back. So I decided that I would stay one semester

and prove to them that I couldn't make it. But I also decided I would

work as hard as I could, to see if I could make it, and I did, I came

out with a pretty good grade point ratio, built my confidence and

carried me through.

W; That's great. And when did you graduate now, from Brigham Young, what


H: In August, 1971.

W: '71. And your major was political science?

H: Economics.

W: Economics, and then political science was your minor?


H: Right.

W: Did you come in contact with various Indians, I know you mentioned this

early, but I want to come back to this, out at the school? How did

you come in contact with other Indians there, C ?

H: Well, I said I had an American Indian Education Award, which meant I

was in direct contact with the Indian Education Department. I met a

lot of Indian students there, plus the teacher that worked with

Indian students. We had a special Indian counselor at that time. I

went to general college, and they had a counselor for Indian students,

and through him I met a lot of Indian students. Plus I went to,, this

church I came in with a B.Y.U. rd and it's all American Indians.

W: The whole group were all Indians?

H: Yeah, all Indian people. BY,U. M4 T__'_ American Indian

boys. And at that time, there were about 120 American Indians at B.Y.U.

and most of them attended that ward, so I got to meet most of them,

Indians from all over the United States, some from Central America,

andA r< ete tj -f /& 10A -.

W: Were Indians in leadership here .(____ ?

H: Well yeah, that was the purpose for having an Indian ward, so that

Indian students could get used to the leadership, so when they go back

to their homes or reservations they'd be prepared to take leadership

in church and other organizations.

W: Were your advisors, at school, and couselors, Indians too?

H: No, my counselor was not. He, I think he had a Masters or something

in Indian history. But while I was there, the Indian program was ex-

panding, in fact it probably expanded, it expanded from 120 Indians,

t-is -w left than a thousand, I think just under a thousand, probably
8 or 900 and they were constantly bringing in Indians, /fte .-
_ _Vf__5 the Indian .eopae Indian instructors for them they like to use
the ones that they

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