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8 Native American tribes prepare to reclaim their children’s remains from Carlisle Army cemetery

The remains of 21 Native American children have been returned to their tribes so far. 

  • Jeremy Long
  • Gabriela Martínez
The graves of Anna Vereskin (left) and Lottie Soreech (right) as the Office of Army Cemeteries prepare to disinter eight Native American graves at the Carlisle Barracks on June 10, 2022. There children were students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School operated by the Department of the Interior until 1919.

 Jeremy Long / WITF

The graves of Anna Vereskin (left) and Lottie Soreech (right) as the Office of Army Cemeteries prepare to disinter eight Native American graves at the Carlisle Barracks on June 10, 2022. There children were students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School operated by the Department of the Interior until 1919.

The remains of eight Native American children who died at the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School will soon be reunited with family members.

The United States Army will begin its fifth disinterment of Native American remains at the Carlisle Barracks on June 11. Last summer, the remains of 10 children were sent home. The remains of 21 Native American children have been returned to their tribes so far.

“The Army’s commitment remains steadfast to these two Alaskan families and six Native American families,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries. “The return of their children provides these families the opportunity to move forward with the closure and healing process.”

In 1879, Carlisle Barracks became the site of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, operated by the Department of the Interior until 1918.More than 10,000 Native American children , with representation from approximately 50 Native American tribes from across the nation.

During that time, more than 180 children died from malnourishment and disease at the school. The school’s motto was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”

Two Alaska Native families and six Native American families will be able to transfer the remains of their relatives to the cemeteries of their choice.

The children were from six Native American nations in the U.S.– the Washoe, Catawba, Umpqua, Oneida, Ute and the Alaskan Aleut tribe.

The decedent names are: Raleigh James from the Washoe tribe; Wade Ayres from the Catawba tribe; Ellen Macy from the Umqua tribe; Lottie Soreech from the Ute tribe;
Frank Green and Paul Wheelock from the Oneida tribe; and Anatasia Achwak (Ashowak) and Anna Vereskin from the Alaskan Aleut tribe.

The process to return the children to their homes began in 2016 when some of the tribes that have children buried in the cemetery reached out to the Department of the Army to have some of their children returned, said Director of the Office of Army Cemeteries Renea Yates.

“We’ve worked with them and all the federally recognized tribes to arrange the opportunity for families and those that desire to return the children,” Yates said. 

Families and tribes have to ask to have their children returned. Once they do that they work with the agency, provide certain documents, which could take awhile, Yates said.

Once the proper documentation is submitted the process moves along quickly and the agency schedules the remains to be returned to the tribes and families, Yates said. 

In 1927, 186 Native American children relocated from the original cemetery on the base to its current location.

The Army will reimburse families for their travel to participate in a transfer ceremony and is also funding the cost for transport and reinterment.

The Carlisle Barracks Post Cemetery was closed on June 6, when set-up began, and will be closed until the remains are removed, tentatively scheduled for July..

The entire cemetery area will be enclosed with privacy fencing and access to the cemetery will be restricted to the Office of Army Cemetery staff along with tribal members and their families.

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