Two boys, buried at Carlisle Indian Residential School, could return home to Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Spirit Lake Nations – if US military approves

When two Oyate boys, Edward Upright (Spirit Lake Nation) and Amos LaFromboise (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), left their homes in the Dakotas in 1879, they were 13 and 12 years old respectively. They were each the son of a powerful tribal chief—Amos of Joseph LaFromboise, a founding father of his tribe, and Edward of Chief Waanatan—in line to become the hereditary chiefs of their respective tribes when they grew older. Instead, they never left the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania: they both died before they were 16 and remain buried in the cemetery next to the old school grounds. .

This summer, after a century and a half in Pennsylvania, the boys will return home to the Dakotas as leaders, said Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate historian Tamara St. John.

“These boys would be the future leaders if they hadn’t lost their lives there,” St. John said during a live-streamed signing ceremony last Saturday, Feb. 18 at Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Casino, Dakota Magic. Casino, in Hankinson, ND

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Last weekend, the tribes took the first step towards repatriating the boys by coordinating signed affidavits from their direct descendants, a process required by the US military, which now controls Carlisle Cemetery where 176 Indigenous schoolchildren are buried. .

“The Army Cemetery Office is aware of reports that documents have been signed regarding the return of children to Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Spirit Lake Nations, and appreciates that a visit in September 2021 provided the families and tribes with the information needed to reach this stage. the army wrote in a statement to Native News Online. “Once we have received the required documents for the exhumation and the actions have been approved, the military will work with the families to plan for the dignified exhumation and return.”

Starting in 2017, when Yufna Soldier Wolf, a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe, successfully petitioned the military to exhume three of her tribe’s children, also sons of tribal leaders, the Cemetery Bureau of the army formalized a “exhumation of remains» process of restitution of Aboriginal remains to their direct descendants.

Since then, the Army has paid for four transfer ceremonies, returning a total of 21 children buried at Carlisle School Cemetery to burial sites chosen by their descendants. Most recently, the Rosebud Sicangu Oyate brought home nine of their loved ones in July.

The Army has scheduled six more children to return home this summer, the Army Cemetery Office confirmed. Indigenous News Online. St. John, after six years of searching, hopes that Amos and Edward will be exhumed with them. The military is also working with families from four tribes — Catawba, Oneida, Washoe and Umpqua — and two Alaska Native Aleut families for exhumations and returns between June and July, the office said in a statement.

Although the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate worked with the Rosebuds throughout coordinating their return, St. John said his tribe was delayed in locating descendants of “nearest relatives” because so little information had been kept on the students, especially Edward Upright.

Upright student card notes his tribal affiliation as “Sisseton”, but his family information is misspelled as Wanatah, rather than Waanatan, with no parents or given names attached. St. John would eventually discover that Waanatan was a tribal name for their neighboring tribe, Spirit Lake Nation.

If all goes as planned, the military will exhume the boys this summer and they will be sent home to their respective tribes, Spirit Lake Nation President Doug Yankton said Saturday.

“I believe that in early summer, or mid-summer, we will lay them to rest respectfully next to relatives in each respective tribe,” Yankton said.

Although the tribe’s goal is to bring the two boys home, St. John pointed out that there are four boys who need to be memorialized.

“There were four boys who left and all four boys died,” she told Native News Online. “I want to thank the four boys because they are all important.” The other two Sisseton boys – John Renville and George Walker – are buried in unknown locations on the reservation.

John Renville, son of Chief Gabriel Renville, died in 1880 at the age of 16 after contracting typhus, according to his student file. “After his death, his father, Chief Gabriel Renville, traveled to Carlisle to collect his son’s remains, and then he also brought his daughter Nancy home with him at the same time,” said Jim Gerencser, archivist of the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. News online.

St. John speculates that the unusual occurrence of a tribesman coming to collect their children’s remains was granted to Chief Renville due to his resources. “He would have had, even before the Dakota War, a farm and businesses,” she said. “I could see where he would have resources that no one else would.”

George Walker, the fourth Sisseton-Wahpeton boy to arrive in Carlisle in 1879, was sent home due to ill health in April 1883, the school says recordings. St. John said his death was confirmed in written correspondence between Carlisle officials. “Whatever illness accompanied him, he followed him home,” she said.

Amos LaFromboise was the first student to die at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, just 30 days after arriving. Folders show that he was originally buried in a local cemetery in Carlisle, but was reinterred in Carlisle two months later because the local cemetery was restricted “for the burial of these white people”. His cause of death is not listed.

Edward Upright died of pneumonia, after recovering from measles, according to a letter from his doctor to Richard Pratt, the school’s principal.

Until Edward and Amos are confirmed for the exhumation this summer, St. John said she would be nervous.

“I’m scared how much it’s going to hurt,” she said. “I fear for my community and loved ones because it will bring out the pain and pain. After that, I feel excited and happy that things are moving and progressing. And then I feel proud, really proud of our families and our tribes and how we just connected and embraced in this and in this difficult thing.

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About the Author

Jenna Kunze
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Personal editor

Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. His bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 American journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Arctic region of Alaska. Previously, she was a senior reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.

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