MISSION, S.D. — The remains of nine Lakota children who died at a boarding school in Carlisle, Penn., were returned after 140 years to their home on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota on Friday, July 16.
On Friday morning, a tribal delegation, including ancestors and a tribal motorcycle group, crossed the Missouri River via the Chief Standing Bear Bridge from Nebraska into South Dakota with the children, arriving on the Yankton Sioux tribal lands. The group was to be greeted at Whetstone Landing, a historic river port for the tribe, and later travel to Sinte Gleska tribal college for an evening ceremony.
The return of the children (Lucy Takes the Tail, Rose Long Face, Ernest Knocks Off, Dennis Strikes First, Maud Little Girl, Friend Hollow Horn Bear, Warren Painter, and Alvan and Dora Her Pipe), sparked by a five-year-old effort by the Sicanu Youth Council, represent a physical and spiritual homecoming, says Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, a Democrat from Mission, S.D., and an enrolled member of the Rosebud tribe.
"These spirits will be able to join up with their families and won't have that lost-soul feeling, like there's a disconnect," Bordeaux said Friday. "Now, there's a re-connect."
The repatriation was also marked by the state's elected leadership, including Gov. Kristi Noem, who dedicated her weekly column to recognizing "tragic story of early Indian boarding schools," under the title, "Learning from Our Mistakes." Sen. Mike Rounds also attended a ceremony with the tribal delegation and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland at the U.S. Army's Carlisle Barracks on Wednesday, marking the return of the remains.
Haaland has opened an investigation into the "troubled legacy" of the boarding school movement, which punished children for speaking Native languages, stripped children of their religious practices, and is credited with causing generational trauma amongst today's Indigenous peoples.
Boarding schools also received scrutiny in a resolution, sponsored by Sen. Red Dawn Foster, D-Pine Ridge, and Rep. Peri Pourier, D-Pine Ridge, that widely passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives this past legislative session.
But the measure, which sought to "acknowledge and honor the Native American children who were survivors of the boarding schools in this state," was defeated in the state Senate after Senate Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, expressed concern about potential litigation against entities that operated the boarding schools.
On Friday, Bordeaux said he hopes this 140-year, 1,400-mile journey will awaken minds to the importance of paying what he said the "appropriate attention" to the boarding school legacy.
"We're showing the rest of the world how we repatriate and how we deal with this," said Bordeaux. "All of this comes together in a graceful way."