US Army Returns Children's Remains From First Indian Boarding School To Tribes

May 31, 2016
Courtesy of Dickinson College Archives
A before and after picture of Navajo student Tom Torlino as he entered Carlisle Indian Industrial School

After more than a century, the Army is sending home the remains of children buried at one of the first federally-run Indian boarding schools

From the 1870s to the 1960s the federal government forced more than 800,000 Native American children to leave their families and attend boarding school. The school’s mission: to wipe out Native American culture and to assimilate the children into what was considered “modern society.” 

Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania became the model for hundreds of schools that followed. Nearly 200 children died there, most from diseases like tuberculosis or consumption. The U.S. Army War College built its campus on top of Carlisle in 1901. And the federal government never returned the bodies to their families.

Earlier this month representatives from several tribes asked the college, the Secretary of Defense and President Obama to honor federal law, which requires them to inventory the remains and return them to the tribes. After years of contentious meetings the Army agreed to comply.