CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) — The remains of 10 more Native American children who died more than a century ago at a boarding school in central Pennsylvania are being disinterred and will be returned to their relatives, authorities said.
A team of archaeologists began work Saturday at the cemetery on the grounds of the Carlisle Barracks, which also houses the U.S. Army War College. Nine of the children were from the Rosebud Sioux tribe in South Dakota and one is from the Alaskan Aleut tribe.
The cemetery contains more than 180 graves of students who attended the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School — a government-run boarding school for Native American children. This is the Army’s fourth disinterment project at the school in as many years.
The school founded by an Army officer opened in 1879 and housed some 10,000 indigenous children before it shut down in 1918. Students were forced to cut their braids, dress in uniforms, speak English and adopt European names. Infectious disease and harsh conditions claimed the lives of many of the children buried there.
The Army is fully funding the cost of the project — about $500,000 per year, including travel to the transfer ceremony as well as transport and reburial of the deceased children, said Barbara Lewandrowski of the Office of Army Cemeteries. The Carlisle Barracks Post Cemetery closed Monday and will likely remain closed until July 17.
“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,” Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries, said in a statement Tuesday.
Since 2016, dozens of Native American and Alaskan Native families have requested that their ancestors be returned from Carlisle, Lewandrowski said.
The children's English names, and where available their Native Americans names, were: Dennis Strikes First (Blue Tomahawk), Rose Long Face (Little Hawk), Lucy Take The Tail (Pretty Eagle), Warren Painter (Bear Paints Dirt), Ernest Knocks Off (White Thunder), Maud Little Girl (Swift Bear), Friend Hollow Horn Bear, Dora Her Pipe (Brave Bull) and Alvan — also known as Roaster, Kills Seven Horses and One That Kills Seven Horses; and Sophia Tetoff of the Alaskan Aleut tribe on Saint Paul Island in the Bering Sea.
The Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center archives at Dickinson College include newspaper clippings detailing the deaths of some students or identification cards with name, tribal affiliation, date of arrival and date of departure, with the reason for the latter often listed as “death,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Dennis Strikes First arrived Oct. 6, 1879 and died Jan.19, 1887 of typhoid pneumonia. A news item indicates that he was the son of Blue Tomahawk of Rosebud Agency, Dakota and calls him a “bright, studious, ambitious boy, standing first in his class, and of so tractable a disposition as to be no trouble to his teachers.”
Another clipping detailed the Dec. 14, 1880, deaths of Ernest Knocks Off and Maud Little Girl, describing it as a “sad and mysterious coincidence.” Ernest was sent to the hospital in October to receive treatment for a sore throat, but he wouldn’t agree to take any medicine, leaving him “weak and exhausted.” Maud Little Girl was said to have died of pneumonia and was called a “bright, impulsive, warm-hearted girl, much beloved by her school mates.”