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Oklahoma's Bacone College filing for bankruptcy, president vows to keep fighting

Bacone College graduates stand fixing their gowns
Bacone College
Bacone College Website
Former Bacone college graduates stand at their ceremony

Bacone College in Muskogee is filing for bankruptcy.

“Indian University,” now known as “Bacone College” was Oklahoma’s first higher education institution and America’s first Native college. It opened its doors in 1881 with three students in Muskogee. Over 100 years later, the college’s leaders are fighting to keep them.

After years of poor leadership and mishandled finances, the remaining board of trustees and brand new Interim President and Cherokee Nation citizen Leslie Hannah have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows entities to “pause” their debts to reorganize finances by a certain deadline. Bacone has until July 5 to do just that.

Hannah said he and the board hoped their plan would allow them to keep the historic campus operational.

“The board’s philosophy (was) if the property is gone, the college is gone,” Hannah said. “We’re not a college without that property, so we’ve got to save that property.”

The college lost a contract lawsuit brought by Utah-based Midgley-Huber Energy Concepts (MHEC) last year. The lawsuit was over unpaid HVAC work totaling more than $1.5 million.

Bacone is slated to appear before a bankruptcy judge for a hearing on July 22.

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Katie Hallum covers Indigenous Affairs at KOSU.
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