Editor’s note: This is the fourth story in an occasional series about Native American boarding schools and their impact on the tribes of the region.
BISMARCK — More than a century ago, administrators of the infamous Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania decided to bury the bodies of two young Native American students in a cemetery more than 1,000 miles from their home state. in Dakota Territory.
To correct this perceived wrongdoing, members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Spirit Lake tribes recently petitioned the federal government to help return the remains of Amos LaFromboise and Edward Upright to the Dakotas so they can lie next to them. of their fathers.
Although they managed to hand over the necessary paperwork this spring for the boys’ remains to be exhumed and brought home, the tribes will likely have to wait another year.
US Army officials, who maintain Carlisle Cemetery, said Amos and Edward will not be discharged this year due to insufficient planning time and funding constraints. The boys’ remains are now due to be exhumed next summer.
Tribal leaders are frustrated with the delay and say the army’s disorganization is to blame. They believe the federal government should do everything it can to address the historic trauma it inflicted on Native Americans through the boarding schools.
Sisseton Wahpeton tribal historian Tamara St. John, a leader in repatriation efforts, said the military did not treat Amos and Edward as loved ones who deserve proper reburial.
Spirit Lake Tribe Chairman Doug Yankton sent a letter to American senses John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, both RN.D.s, asking their offices to help the tribes repatriate Amos and Edward by the end of summer.
“The Indigenous peoples of this country deserve healing, respect, honesty and just relationships,” Yankton wrote in the letter. “The further delay in the repatriation of these remains does the opposite, instead sending the message that we are neither valued nor important.”
A spokesperson for Hoeven said the Republican senator’s office will contact the Department of Defense “to see if we can get the department to work with the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Spirit Lake tribes to return the remains of the tribesmen as soon as possible.” as possible. ”
In 1879, Amos and Edward were among the first students to arrive at the Carlisle boarding school – an institution designed to assimilate young Native Americans into a white man’s world by stripping them of their culture, language and family ties.
Teenagers Sisseton and Wahpeton Sioux, both sons of influential tribal leaders, died while attending school. Edward died of measles and pneumonia, while Amos’ cause of death is unknown. Both boys were buried in Carlisle.
The remains of Amos, Edward and more than 180 other former students were later exhumed and moved to an Army cemetery in the southern Pennsylvania town after the school closed and the resumption of owned by the military.
Since 2017, Native American tribes across the country have repatriated the remains of more than 20 former Carlisle students from the cemetery. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe led repatriation efforts in South Dakota, reburying the remains of nine children on their reservation last year.
Forum News Service reported in February that relatives of Amos and Edward took a critical step by signing affidavits attesting to their family ties to the boys at a ceremony near Hankinson, North Dakota.
Amos’ family hopes to bury him next to his father Joseph at St. Matthew Cemetery on the South Dakota side of the Lake Traverse Reservation, and Edward’s family would like their relative to rest next to his father, Chief Waanatan II, at St. Michael’s Cemetery. Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota.
The tribes sent the affidavits to the military in late February and expected the boys’ relatives to make the repatriation trip to Carlisle this summer.
A few weeks later, Justin Buller, an attorney with the Army Cemetery Office, wrote to family members that their requests for the exhumation and return of the boys had been approved, but he noted that he would not be it may not be possible to repatriate the remains this summer. Tribal leaders and historians say they never received a similar update from Buller.
After Sisseton Wahpeton Historic Preservation Officer Dianne Desrosiers asked Buller about the status of the exhumations earlier this month, Buller wrote in an email that the military is “simply too far along in the process. planning complex this year and has reached our maximum number we are able to return with funding this year.
The military began facilitating the exhumation of eight former students this month, according to the Associated Press. The military oversaw the exhumation of 10 former students in 2021.
Director of Army Cemeteries Renea Yates said in an email to the Forum News Service that the necessary planning for the exhumations must be completed by January 15 and that requests for the repatriation of Amos and Edward arrived after this date.
Yates mentioned that Amos and Edward will be “the first two to be exhumed during the project window next summer”.
St. John and Desrosiers said the military never told them about the Jan. 15 deadline during their lengthy correspondence. Tribal historians said they were frustrated with the military’s lack of communication.
Neither Yates nor Buller responded to a request for additional comment.
Yankton and St. John said they added a year to the timeline for matters of repatriating their tribes and the boys’ family members.
Helena Waanatan Littleghost, who signed the affidavit claiming she is Edward’s closest living relative, has just turned 86, and she may not be able to make it to Carlisle if another year passes, Yankton said.
St. John took up the cause of repatriation more than six years ago, and she said it pains her to think of all the tribesmen who died without being able to see Amos and Edward come home.
The historian said she would be “very upset” if other tribal elders couldn’t see the repatriations happen due to the army’s postponement.
About the “Buried Wounds” series
In May 2021, the remains of 215 children were discovered in unmarked graves on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada. This disturbing discovery drew attention to the role of the United States in the forced assimilation of thousands of Indigenous children through its own boarding school policies.
From 1819 and well into the 1960s, the U.S. government oversaw the policies of more than 400 Native American boarding schools nationwide, including at least 13 in North Dakota. Many children who attended schools in North Dakota and elsewhere were taken from their homes against their will, stripped of their culture, and physically, sexually, and psychologically abused.
Little research has been done on the exact number of schools in the United States and the extent to which the federal government knew about the conditions of each school. The US Department of the Interior under Secretary Deb Haaland is investigating the history and legacy of federally run boarding schools.
The Forum has launched its own investigation into boarding schools in North Dakota and other parts of the country by interviewing survivors, reviewing public records, and exploring the impact these schools still have on the native population of North Dakota. today.
The first episode of the series about the Sisseton and Wahpeton children who died at Carlisle Indian Industrial School can be found here.
The second episode of the series about the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara children who died at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School can be found here.
The third installment in the series on Christian denominations considering their role in Native American boarding schools can be found here.