Margery Lancaster Walker: Passionate educator, and Baylor’s first Native American graduate
Other Native American students attended Baylor before Margery Lancaster Walker, including Oscar Pete (Chehalis tribe) in 1936 and Dan Tilden (Cherokee) in 1939. But Walker, who graduated with a degree in music education from BU in 1952, is believed to have been Baylor’s first Native American graduate.
Born in 1933 in Albuquerque, N.M., Margery knew hardship early. Her mother, a Navajo (Diné), sadly died during the birth, leaving her father, George Howard Wilson (Lakota/Sioux), to raise her. Her parents did pass on a musical heritage; George was a concert singer, and Margery’s mother served as his accompanist.
Without his wife to help care for their child, George approved Margery’s adoption by Rev. and Mrs. C.E. Lancaster of San Saba, Texas, when Margery was two years old. The move brought her closer to Baylor, where she pursued a degree in music education.
At Baylor, she was active in a music sorority and the Baylor Rodeo Association, serving as secretary for the latter during her senior year. A Lariat article that year reported on her plans after graduation: “I want to go and teach my people among the southwest Indians,” she said. “I want to help, but I do not want to try to stop them from being ‘Indians.'” She further shared her passion for Native American art and music, which “has too long been deprived of its rightful place along with other American folk music.”
As an adult, Margery spent decades meeting those goals as she taught Native American students in schools across the Southwest, Texas, and Upper Midwest. A 1982 Lariat article caught up with her after 23 years of teaching for the U.S. Department of the Interior and in multiple public schools. Margery sought to help preserve her students’ Native American culture, while blending it with education to open doors for their future.
“Without education, Indians — and other persons, for that matter — cannot get anywhere,” she said. “Education, plus a willingness to work, can assure continuation of the Indian heritage as part of America’s future.”
Margery’s story is one of a young woman who used her gifts to serve others long after her trailblazing time on campus as the Baylor’s first Native American graduate.
Sic ’em, Margery Lancaster Walker!
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