Whetstone repatriation ceremony connects residential school victims with surviving relatives

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Thousands of Native American children were sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. Now the remains of nine children who died there have returned to the Rosebud Sioux tribe.

A caravan escorted the remains across the country and stopped at Whetstone on the Yankton Reservation on Friday. It’s the place where children as young as 10 crossed the Missouri River to begin their journey to Carlisle 142 years ago. The federal government is forcing Aboriginal children to leave their families and attend residential school.

Elaine Crow Eagle, from Rosebud, attended the Remains Ceremony in Whetstone. As she spoke, Crow Eagle threaded small turquoise beads onto an ornamental chain of spirals.

“I just can’t imagine what they went through,” Crow Eagle said. “They will never see their parents again and their parents will never see their children again. For it to be here, it’s right, I don’t know. It hurts… but I’m just glad they’re coming home.

Crow Eagle’s husband Mike, says there are a lot of unanswered questions.

“Closed to some,” he said. “It will help some families, but not all because it has taken so long. Why? We will never get answers.

Maxine Dubray, of Soldier Creek, came to the ceremony in Whetstone as a descendant of the Carlisle survivors. Dubray feels sad for the young children who haven’t come home.

“It kind of represented my grandmother, my great-great-grandmother, and I was grateful that she came out of it,” she said.

Dubray brought his grandson, Kienen, with her. Dubray said it’s important to teach the next generation about their history and ancestors.

Duane Hollow Horn Bear, who is related to Friend Hollow Horn Bear, one of nine children, said it was important to stop in Whetstone before taking the remains to their final resting place on the Rosebud Reservation.

“You know, maybe their spirits stay along the shore there, and physically, physically their bodies are taken,” Hollow Horn Bear said.

Pairs of young men carried nine wooden crates of the remains to a prayer lodge.

The children were finally home.

Elaine Crow Eagle is happy some of the children were buried in the veterancemetery of s.

“These children are like warriors, they are like warriors,” she said. “They stayed there and did what they had to.”

Six children are buried in the veterans cemetery, and the other three will be buried in family plots.

Hollow Horn Bear said that even with the return of nine children, there are many more who have yet to come home. He said what the Rosebud Sioux tribe has accomplished sets an example for other tribes and communities to retrieve the remains of their ancestors from residential schools across the country.

Hear about the return of the remains of Native American children from Carlisle Industrial Indian School to the Rosebud Tribe by listening “Right Now: The Return of Indigenous Children’s Remains from Residential Schools.”


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