NIOBRARA — Eleven Rosebud Sioux Tribe children were forced to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the late 1800s. They never returned to their homes, nor were they heard from again.
The children’s remains recently were uncovered, and on Friday, July 16, at about 10:30 a.m., Rosebud Tribal members will bring the remains of these children back to their home land.
In a display of solidarity, mourning and respect to the Rosebud Tribe, the Santee Sioux Nation will place teddy bears, flowers, balloons and toys along a portion of their route home along Highway 12 in Nebraska from Lindy to the Santee Village corner.
The students were between the ages of 12 and 18 when they arrived at the school, said Russell Eagle Bear, a council member in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
Their names, according to the Office of Army Cemeteries (O.A.C.), are: Dennis Strikes First (Blue Tomahawk); Rose Long Face (Little Hawk); Lucy Take The Tail (Pretty Eagle); Warren Painter (Bear Paints Dirt); Ernest Knocks Off (White Thunder); Maud Little Girl (Swift Bear); Alvan, a.k.a. Roaster, Kills Seven Horses, One That Kills Seven Horses; Friend Hollow Horn Bear; and Dora Her Pipe (Brave Bull).
While some remains have been returned to their families and tribes in recent years, the remains of more than 100 people are still buried on the former school grounds, the O.A.C. said.
The Santee Sioux Nation urges people of all races and ethnicities to take a moment and reflect on this and the many ongoing atrocities conducted against innocent children.
MEANWHILE, the U.S. Interior Department has started combing through records in hopes of identifying past boarding schools and the names and tribes of students. The project also will try to determine how many children died while attending those schools and were buried in unmarked graves.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo and the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency, has promised a comprehensive review while acknowledging it would be a painful and difficult process.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, adjunct history professor Larry Larrichio said he stumbled upon a box of 1885 photos while researching a military outpost, and “it just brought a tear to my eye.”
The photos had sat inside a dust-covered box that had been stashed away, untouched for years. They were black-and-white photographs of Apache students who were among the first sent to a New Mexico boarding school bankrolled by East Coast parishioners and literary fans.
The first showed the girls bundled in blankets with moccasins on their feet. The next, taken just weeks later, was starkly different, the children posing in plaid uniforms, high-laced boots and wide-brimmed straw hats.
The images represented the systematic attempt by the U.S. government, religious organizations and other groups to assimilate Indigenous youth into White society by removing them from their homes and shipping them off to boarding school. The effort lasted more than a century and is now the focus of what will be a massive undertaking by the U.S. government as it seeks to uncover the troubled legacy of the nation’s policies related to Native American boarding schools, where reports of physical and sexual abuse were widespread.
“I looked at the faces of these beautiful Apache girls in their Native attire and then those ugly American bonnets,” said Larrichio, a research associate with the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico. “It just knocked me on my butt.”
Larrichio’s discovery hints at the immensity of the challenge, as each bit of new information leads down another avenue that needs to be researched.
While some records are kept by the agency and the National Archives, most are scattered across jurisdictions — from the bowels of university archives like those Larrichio found, to government offices, church archives, museums and personal collections.
That’s not to mention whatever records were lost or destroyed over the years.
The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has been working to amass information about the schools for almost a decade.
With the help of grant funding and the work of independent researchers across the country, the Minnesota-based group has identified nearly 370 schools and estimates hundreds of thousands of Native American children passed through them between 1869 and the 1960s.
“It’s going to be a monumental task, and the initiative that was launched by the Interior is great, but it’s a short timeline and we’ll need further investigation,” said Christine Diindiisi McCleave, the group’s CEO and a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation.
The Associated Press also contributed to this story.