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U.S. Army to begin disinterment of 10 Native American students

The U.S. Army will return the remains of one Alaskan Aleut and nine Rosebud Sioux students to living relatives.

CARLISLE, Pa. — Coming from 41 different Native American tribes, many of the 186 students buried in the Carlisle Indian Industrial School cemetery remain far from their homes. More than 100 years later, 10 are going back home.

The U.S. Army will return the remains of one Alaskan Aleut and nine Rosebud Sioux students to living relatives.

One student, Sophia Tetoff, came from the Aleut in Alaska. The other nine—Lucy Take the Tail (Pretty Eagle), Rose Long Face (Little Hawk), Ernest Knocks Off (White Thunder), Dennis Strikes First (Blue Tomahawk), Maud Little Girl (Swift Bear), Friend Hollow Horn Bear, Warren Painter (Bear Paints Dirt), Alvan (Kills Seven Horses), Dora Her Pipe (Brave Bull)—came from the Rosebud Sioux in South Dakota, according to a U.S. Army notice.

Disinterments will begin June 19 and wrap up by July 17.

The Carlisle Indian School was the first off-reservation school for Native American students. Between 1879 and 1918, more than 9,000 Native American children were taught to assimilate into White American culture.

To do that, children were separated from siblings and forbidden to speak their own language. Toward the later years of the school, most spent half the day studying and the other half learning a trade.

The school left a complicated legacy. Some students thrived and used their experience to get jobs. Others lost a connection to their native cultures and were left traumatized by their experiences.

“As a system it’s clearly a failure and it was a wrongheaded practice in every way,” said James Gerencser, Dickinson College archivist. “It’s something that we should do everything we can to make sure it's a piece of history that doesn't get repeated.”

Some students at the school died. The most common cause of death was tuberculosis, according to historians.

“They buried them. They gave them tombs. They did it in a very respectful Western way, which is not necessarily respectful to the traditional cultures that these students would have had,” said Cara Curtis, archives and library director at the Cumberland County Historical Society.

All families will have a transfer ceremony according to their traditions.

Credit: Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center
A map of graves by tribe at the Carlisle Indian School cemetery. Courtesy: Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center

Because of its location within Carlisle Barracks the cemetery is run by the U.S. Army.

Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries Karen Durham-Aguilera wrote in a statement,

“The Army’s commitment remains steadfast to these nine Native American families and one Alaskan Native family. Our objective is to reunite the families with their children in a manner of utmost dignity and respect.”

The families of the children were not immediately available for comment, according to Army officials.

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