Tribes press for return of relatives buried at old boarding school

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota hosted a government-to-government consultation with the U.S. Army on May 10, 2016. Photo from RST DCI Sicangu Youth Council / Facebook

The U.S. Army opened government-to-government consultation with three tribes on Tuesday as officials promised to help them secure the remains of relatives who are buried at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania.

The Carlisle site remains under control of the military so the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act doesn't apply. Under Army regulations, only direct descendants can request reburial, officials said at a meeting hosted by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, according to news reports.

Rosebud citizens have already identified at least 10 relatives buried at Carlisle. The Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are also documenting their ties.

"We never authorized this," Yusna Soldier Wolf, the Northern Arapaho Tribe's historic preservation officer, said at the meeting, PennLive reported. "You send people off to war all the time and bring them home."

It's not clear how long the process could take. But the regulations require the Army to pay the costs of reburial.

"I'd like to have that in writing," said Keith Horse Looking Sr., The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Justin Buller, an attorney with the Army, apologized for the situation and some welcomed his remarks, according to news reports. "Those things should have never happened," he said, PennLive reported.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe's youth council started pushing for repatriation last summer. The youth visited Carlisle as part of their trip to Washington, D.C., for the White House Tribal Youth Gathering and the United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) conference.

“During the 19th and early 20th centuries, nearly 830,000 Native American children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to boarding schools—like Carlisle—to assimilate them into what was considered ‘modern society.’ It is past time that the remains of the children who are buried at Carlisle Indian School be returned to their rightful home," Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) said in a statement.

Rounds has introduced S.2796, the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act (RESPECT Act), to repeal 12 laws that he says are "hateful and paternalistic." One of them allowed the federal government to take Indian children from their homes without parental consent.

The Army has scheduled two more tribal consultations in June and in October.

Get the Story:
Tears flow as Lakota tribal leaders urge feds to return remains of children (PennLive 5/10)
Lakota women look to heal severed maternal bonds with return of remains of ancestors buried in Carlisle (PennLive 5/11)
Tribal leaders implore Army: Bring our children home (The Philadelphia Inquirer 5/11)

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