Special to ICT
ROSEBUD, South Dakota — A one-year memorial service was held Thursday for the nine children reinterred on tribal lands after being buried at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School cemetery in Pennsylvania for nearly 142 years.
These nine Sicangu ancestors, along with thousands of others, were taken from their Lakota families in the 19th century. “Back in 1879, only three years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, our children began leaving us for boarding school and they were gone all that time,” said Russell Eagle Bear, Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council representative.
The Rosebud children were among 10 students whose remains were disinterred at the school in 2021; the remains of an Alaskan Aleut child were also returned home. Since the return, the Interior Department established its Federal Indian Boarding School initiative, released volume one of an investigative report and launched a yearlong, nationwide healing tour for boarding school survivors and descendants to share their experiences.
“These teepees represent each one of these children,” Eagle Bear continued. “There are nine teepees each with a memorial chair displaying the name of the child being honored.”
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe set aside July 14 as Tiyata Glipi Anpetu (They are back on the homelands day) as an official tribal holiday. The memorial service was coordinated by the Tokala Inajinyo Youth Leadership Mentoring Program, which is comprised of young Lakota people who provide outreach services to their peers. Many of these young folks were members of the Sicangu Youth Council, who worked hard to organize the return of these children’s remains.
In 1879, when Carlisle was built, Indigenous children were taken from their families by the federal government, the Lakota people were still living in their traditional Tiospaye setting so the teepee represented home to the children.
Sicangu Lakota spiritual leaders were present to conduct a Wiping of Tears ceremony for the descendants of the children, as well as all Lakota people who survived boarding school. Several tribal citizens took part in the ceremony.
The day began with a prayer at the Sicangu Akicita Owicahe (Tribal Veterans Cemetery) to bless the headstones recently set at the graves of the children. Sicangu Youth Council members, along with Tokala Inajinyo staff, attended this morning prayer service with local spiritual leaders.
Members of the Sicangu Oyate Ki Iyanka running club hosted a Pray for Healing Run to acknowledge the children. They ran nearly 20 miles from the Tribal Veteran’s Cemetery to Rosebud, SD where the memorial ceremony was held. Runners included Almona Kills In Water, Lance Dorian, Delmar Forgets Nothing, Sonnie Scott, Louie Arcoren, Holden Haukaas and Ben Smith.
Last July, these runners ran over 100 miles from Whetstone Bay, near the Missouri River, to the Rosebud reservation to honor the nine children who came home. The last stop of the trip home from the Carlisle Indian School Cemetery last year was at Whetstone Bay, where Indigenous children taken from Lakota families got on a boat and traveled to boarding school in the 19th century.
“Today, we celebrated the return of the children after a full year of them being home,” said Rachel Janis, a Sicangu Youth Council member. “At the end of the day, this was about the children still buried in marked/unmarked graves and for all boarding school survivors and descendants. This wasn’t about us, this was about the children and our grandparents who had to experience boarding schools. The Sicangu Youth Council initiated this movement, with good intentions. We started this movement after learning about historical trauma and wanting to take steps towards healing. We won’t rest until they’re all home.”
Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 today to help ICT carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter.