Repatriation Efforts Continue: Northern Arapaho advocate Yufna Soldier Wolf, boarding school healing coalition to host a roundtable on children buried at Carlisle School

By on October 25, 2017

The work to return the Native American children buried at Carlisle Indian Industrial School to their rightful resting places continues.

“Our efforts right now are to get everyone on the same page and to have a way to communicate to other tribes how we will go forward,” Yufna Soldier Wolf, Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, advocate and tribe member, said.

Soldier Wolf is working with the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, a nonprofit focused on pursuing truth, healing, and reconciliation from the U.S. Indian Boarding School policy, to host a Tribal Roundtable Discussion for Carlisle Repatriations in November in Minneapolis, MN.

The purpose of the roundtable is to discuss ways to move forward with petitioning the U.S. government for return of the Native children buried on the grounds of what was once Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the first off-reservation boarding school in the nation.

The school enrolled an estimated 10,000 Native American children from tribes all over the nation, many of whom died and were buried on the Carlisle grounds during their time at the school.

“Over those 39 years that the school operated, roughly 190 to 195 were buried in that cemetery including infants of the students; a number of infant burials,” Jim Gerencser, College Archivist for Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, said.

Soldier Wolf has been a critical voice in the fight for the return of the Native American children who are buried at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and spearheaded the fight for the return of Little Plume, Little Chief — Soldier Wolf’s great uncle — and Horse.

The Northern Arapaho’s fight for their children was the subject of the Planet “Return to Wind River” feature story earlier this year.

The fight for the children from Wind River, a reservation that stretches across western Wyoming, was the first of its kind. It took over a decade of letters, petitions and studies for the government to agree to exhume the three Northern Arapahoe boys buried at Carlisle.

The exhumation took place in early August, and only Little Horse and Little Chief returned to Wind River. Little Plume’s grave contained the remains of two unidentified people, and Plume’s true gravesite has not yet been identified.

The number of unknown graves like Little Plume’s has risen from 12 to 14 at the Carlisle cemetery—meaning there are 14 “unknown” children buried at a federal school that they were forced to attend, according to a press release from the NABSHC.

That statistic shouldn’t exist, according to the NABSHC, and is one that speaks to the ongoing impacts and historical trauma caused by the disastrous U.S. Indian Boarding School experiment.

“It’s extremely sad and disappointing for the family who is already grieving a loss that never should have taken place,” said Christine Diindiisi McCleave, executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. “It’s showing that there’s more that needs to be looked into about the boarding schools—the treatment and care and responsibility that they had to our children, in life and in death.”

The Northern Arapaho are hopeful that the roundtable will help other tribes who have expressed interest in the Army War College repatriating their children’s remains, and have been watching these events unfold with many questions about how the Army will proceed now that they can’t find Little Plume.

“Our goal is to reach all the 59 tribes who have children buried in the cemetery to present how the process went for the Arapaho and start a dialogue for other tribes who may want to repatriate or who would like for their children to stay in the Army’s cemetery,” said Soldier Wolf. “We need people to know what’s going on at Carlisle.”

While Soldier Wolf celebrates the return of Horse and Little Chief who laid buried far from home for 134 years and now rest with their War Chief Families on the western Wyoming reservation, she said in the news release that she is committed to helping find Little Plume and helping other tribes navigate the repatriation process.

Soldier Wolf is currently working as a consultant with the NABSHC to share information on the repatriation process, and will present a report at the roundtable in November.

“The Boarding School Healing Coalition acknowledges the efforts of Mrs. Soldier Wolf in the repatriation of the Northern Arapaho children,” said McCleave. “We are eager for her to share her knowledge for others going through the repatriation process at Carlisle and we are excited about welcoming her onto our team.”

Matthew L. Campbell, Staff Attorney at the Native American Rights Fund, will also speak at the Tribal Roundtable. Campbell is an enrolled member of the Native Village of Gambell on the Saint Lawrence Island in Alaska and has worked on repatriation issues in the past.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition is sponsoring the Tribal Roundtable discussion in support of the other tribes requesting their children’s remains as well as in support of the tribes who have requested that their children not be disturbed.

All Tribal Leaders whose tribes have children buried at Carlisle Indian School Cemetery are invited or to designate a representative to attend. Tribes can apply for scholarship funds to assist with travel costs.

The Tribal Roundtable Discussion for Carlisle Repatriations will be held on November 30 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information about the Tribal Roundtable, please visit The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition at PJH


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