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Contributed by Museum of Northern Arizona

Walter Runke (1879-1964) was superintendent of the Western Navajo Indian Agency from 1901-1920. From 1901-1902, he was a teacher at the Blue Canyon School (often referred to as the Western Navajo Training School) in the now-abandoned town of Algert, Arizona. Located 25 miles east of Tuba City, Blue Canyon is one of the main branches of the Moenkopi Wash.

In 1900, the Western Navajo Agency and Blue Canyon School were established in the old buildings of an abandoned trading post that had closed in 1889. Fourteen students were enrolled at the school. Milton Needham and his wife were Superintendent and Matron of the school respectively. Mrs. Needham was Laura Runke's (nee Williams) aunt and invited Laura- not yet 16 - to come to help her at the school to teach sewing, etc; Laura arrived in July 1901. Shortly afterwards, Walter Runke arrived from Algoma, Wisconsin, to be the school's Industrial teacher. This was to be the beginning of a twenty-one Indian Service career for Runke. Williams and Runke quickly became close, but parted ways in 1902 and eventually married separately in 1904; Walter married Miss Nettie Morris while Laura married Mr. Sam Preston. Both couples remained friends for years until Preston and Morris passed away in 1923 and 1942 respectively. After two years of courting, Williams and Runke married- each for the second time - in 1944.

In 1902 the government bought Tuba City from the Mormons, and during the fall and winter 1902-1903, Walter Runke worked to move the agency and school to Tuba City, effectively abandoning the buildings in Blue Canyon once again. Another short-lived trading post was established using the buildings from 1914-1920. In 1921, the buildings were again abandoned and demolished shortly thereafter. Few remnants of these buildings remain today.

This collection contains images taken by Walter Runke at the short-lived Blue Canyon School when he was there from 1901-1903. Images are of the physical buildings, students, school employees (Runke, Nettie Morris, Laura Williams, others), school activities, Blue Canyon, Navajo and Hopi people, Hopi villages, and Navajo textiles.

 
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