CARLISLE, Pa. — Twenty-three-year-old Christopher Eagle Bear from the Rosebud Sioux tribe in South Dakota has been growing out his hair since he visited the site of the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School six years ago.
The trip, made by the Rosebud Sioux youth council in 2015, sparked a group of young tribal members to initiate a tribe-backed resolution to bring home their nine ancestors who died at the school as children some 140 years ago.
Six years after his initial visit, Eagle Bear’s hair falls down below the waist of his traditional regalia. He is back in Carlisle this week to bring his relatives home.
It’s a Circle
Five of the deceased children set to return home were among the first group of 84 Lakota children from the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Agencies that rolled into the Carlisle train station on Oct. 6, 1879, according to Pratt’s archived documents.
Their names were: Rose Long Face (Little Hawk), Dennis Strikes First (Blue Tomahawk), Maud Little Girl (Swift Bear), Alvan (Kills Seven Horses) and Dora Her Pipe (Brave Bull). Within the next four years, Friend Hollow Horn Bear, Warren Painter (Bear Paints Dirt), Lucy Take the Tail (Pretty Eagle), and Ernest Knocks Off (White Thunder) also arrived.
Russell Eagle Bear, tribal council member, addresses the youth after the press conference. “We’re really proud of you,” he said. “I’m really glad you’re speaking from your heart.”
After learning of their children’s deaths, Chiefs White Thunder and Swift Bear— the respective parents of Ernest and Maud— wrote to Pratt on Dec. 29, 1880. In their letter, they requested the bodies of their children be returned for burial, according to the original document archived by the Carlisle Indian School Digital Research Center. It is not known if Pratt ever responded, but the children were never returned.
“The letter should have been answered,” said Robert Becker, 67, Maud’s closest descendant who traveled with the tribe to Carlisle to bring his great grandmother back home. Becker said that although he felt disheartened by the apparent mistreatment of his ancestors at Carlisle, he would leave feeling “fully content” with the youth council’s work to bring their children home.
“It’s a circle,” he said. “It began with them, it’s going to end with them.”
The journey home from Carlisle, the tribe said, will symbolize the beginning of the healing ahead of them.
“Healing for me is uncovering trauma, whether you experience it or your parents or your grandparents experienced it,” Rachel Janis, 22, said on Tuesday. “When I was younger, I didn’t understand what I was going through. When we first came to Carlisle, although I never experienced boarding schools, I think that was another stem of where that might have come from. We got a lot of, ‘Oh this happened long ago. You weren’t even born when this happened.’
“But why can’t I sit with my grandma (and) have a conversation with her in Lakota? It’s a fear where they don’t want you to talk in Lakota or wear your traditional attire … They’re afraid because of what they went through at boarding schools.”Rosebud Sioux Youth Council Returns to Carlisle Indian School to Bring Their Relatives Home BY JENNA KUNZE, Native News Online, JULY 14, 2021
From the video above:
We all must put down our ignorance and accidental racism of not addressing the truth that this country had with Indigenous people. We are not asking for pity. We are asking for understanding.