Ku Stevens’ Remembrance Run

Stories continue to emerge related to the remains of native children on the grounds of institutions of forced assimilation. Over 1,000 have been found on the grounds of several institutions in Canada so far. Searches are beginning in the land called the United States. Just last month nine children from the Carlisle boarding school in Pennsylvania were returned home. A number of my friends were involved in powerful ceremonies as the children’s’ caravan stopped in Sioux City, Iowa.

Following are stories related to forced assimilation and the Stewart Indian School in Nevada.

Stewart Indian School

First opened in 1890, Stewart Indian School was operated by the federal government for 90 years before it closed in 1980. Stewart and other boarding schools across the nation, were initially set up to forcefully educate Native American children in the late 1800s. This assimilation policy impacted thousands of Native students not only from the Great Basin tribal nations, but over 200 tribes over the school’s 90-year history.

Nevada Indian Commission

At the old (Stewart) school cemetery adjacent to the 240-acre campus, southwest of central Carson City, there are more than 170 marked graves. Those range in time from 1880, a year before the school existed, to the early 2000s. The marked gravesites include many with weathered, nearly-illegible headstones as well as easily-read marble markers and well-tended family plots. The wind-swept site on tribal land, protected by a fence and ringed with gnarled sagebrush, also encompasses an estimated 200 unmarked plots, whose occupants and dates of interment are a mystery.

Stewart Indian School’s 200 unmarked graves. ILLNESSES, ACCIDENTS AND EPIDEMICS TOOK THEIR TOLL ON NATIVE STUDENTS by Frank X. Mullen, Reno News and Review, August 15, 2021
Ku Stevens

When news broke of the mass graves found in Canada at residential schools earlier this year, one young cross country runner in Nevada thought of his own family.

Ku Stevens, Yerington Paiute Tribe, is 17, and a runner. His great grandfather Frank Quinn attended the Stewart Indian School in 1913. Quinn ran away three times.

He says he even felt his ancestors on his feet and he knows what he would say to his great grandfather if he was here today.

“Thanks for getting me this far because without him and the decisions he would have made to even run away from here, if he didn’t, I couldn’t possibly be here. Thanks for being a good man and wanting to be with your family and wanting to support them anyway you could. (Because) that’s family, you know, you would do anything for them,” Stevens said.

Retracing his ancestor’s boarding school escape. 17-year-old Ku Stevens honored his great-grandfather recently as part of a ‘Remembrance Run’ INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY, August 17, 2021

It’s about healing and bringing people together

Ku Stevens
Ku Stevens’ Remembrance Run

The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at tribal schools in Canada inspired a Native American teenager from Northern Nevada to recreate his great-grandfather’s escape from a similar school near Carson City.

Yerington Paiute tribal member Ku Stevens, one of the top prep cross-country runners in the state, plans to retrace the steps of his great-grandfather, Frank Quinn. He ran away from the Stewart Indian School three times, starting when he was 8.

Stevens had heard families stories about his great-grandfather his whole life but has grown to appreciate his courage.

“As of recently, I’ve kind of really understood the weight of what he had to do,” Stevens told State of Nevada, “and that’s why we’re trying to do this right now.”

The Yerington High School senior will honor his great-grandfather next month with a 50-mile run to bring awareness to the history of children being taken from families under a policy of forced assimilation of native peoples.

Teen Honors Great-Grandfather’s Escape From Tribal School by Bert Johnson, Nevada Public Radio, July 29, 2021
Ku Stevens, right, and his father Delmar Stevens, visit the Stewart Indian School in Carson City. The younger Stevens plans to run from the campus to Yerrington, recreating his great-grandfather’s efforts to escape the tribal school.

Thanks for getting me this far because without him and the decisions he would have made to even run away from here, if he didn’t, I couldn’t possibly be here. Thanks for being a good man and wanting to be with your family and wanting to support them anyway you could

Ku Stevens

Ku Stevens will not let history be forgotten.

Later this summer, the senior-to-be at Yerington High School plans to retrace his great-grandfather’s journey in escaping from the Stewart Indian School in Carson City.

He’s calling it: “The Remembrance Run.”

Stevens told the Reno Gazette Journal he was inspired earlier this year by the discovery of 215 children’s graves in Canada. The remains of the children were found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The Stewart Indian School, which operated from about 1890 to 1980, was one of about 200 military-style boarding schools for native students nationwide.

Stevens’ great-grandfather, Frank Quinn, escaped from the Stewart Indian School and ran 50 miles when he was 8 years old to try to get back to his family home on the Yerington Paiute tribal reservation.

His route home went across the desert between Carson City and Yerington. He was returned to the school and escaped, again, three times in all.

Stevens’ great-grandmother Hazel, also a Paiute tribe member, was hidden by her family, who denied her existence when government officials came looking for her.

“It’s about remembering and education,” Stevens said. “Anybody can come out and run. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It’s about healing and bringing people together. It’s not just about remembering the segregation and the bad things of the past.”

Yerington teen to retrace escape from Stewart Indian School, Nevada Appeal, July 5, 2021
Stewart Indian School In Carson City To Be Included In Federal Probe

After nearly 1,000 unmarked graves were found at former Indian boarding schools in Canada, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced an initiative to study Indian schools here, including one just outside Carson City.

The former Stewart Indian School is now a state-run museum, but about half of the former campus, including its cemetery, was returned to the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. Officials with the Nevada Indian Commission announced earlier this month they were collecting information about the school so they would be ready to participate in the federal review.

Stacey Montooth, director of the commission, said the investigation is welcome but will touch a nerve in the state’s tribal community.

“To prepare for any questions that Secretary Haaland might have, I’ve met with elders and the burial committee from the Washoe Nation to try to get a sense of what they would like to see,” she said. “With permission from their leadership, I was able to go to the cemetery and we’re dealing with upwards of 200 unmarked graves.”

“The boarding schools were so impactful,” she told State of Nevada. “We had families that have never really ever been able to return to their traditional structure, nor have they been able to embrace modern-day America.”

Stewart Indian School In Carson City To Be Included In Federal Probe by Bert Johnson, Nevada Public Radio, July 14, 2021

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