Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Dorothy Sunrise Lorentino opened the door for public school education for Native Americans and educated a nation. The extraordinary contributions to education of this Lawton, Oklahoma, native began with a battle. At the age of six she was denied access to the Cache Public Schools because of her heritage as a Comanche Indian. She and her parents made a twenty-mile train ride to Lawton, Oklahoma, where her father sued the school district for refusing to admit Native American children to public schools. Lorentino's father won the lawsuit in 1918. Prior to this ruling, all Native American children were required by law to attend only Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.

Lorentino later graduated from the Indian boarding school at Chilocco and earned a bachelor's degree from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Talequah in 1938 and a master's degree from the University of Oregon in 1947. Before retiring in 1972, Lorentino taught special education for thirty-four years on reservations in Arizona and New Mexico and later in the public schools of Salem and Tillamook, Oregon. Following her retirement, she continued teaching by substituting at public schools, and she taught the Comanche tribal language and songs to members of her tribe.

Lorentino earned many awards throughout her career as a teacher. In 1997 she became the first Oklahoman and Native American to be inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Other honors include the National Indian Education Association's Elder of the Year, the Delta Kappa Gamma Society Lifetime Award, and Outstanding Woman of Comanche County. In 1996 Cache High School initiated the Dorothy Sunrise Lorentino Award to be presented annually to the Native American graduating senior who best exemplifies the qualities for which Lorentino stands.

Cora Z. Hedstrom National Teachers Hall of Fame

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