'Will rest in the quiet': Rosebud Sioux children, taken to a boarding school over 140 years ago, finally laid to rest

·4 min read

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – On the quiet green and gold intermingling plains of western South Dakota, the Rosebud Sioux properly buried their children who had been taken from them more than 140 years ago.

“The children will rest in the quiet and find comfort in being on the plains,” Russell Eagle Bear said. “Today, they made a journey to be here – to go into the comfort of Mother Earth.”

The remains of six Rosebud Sioux children who died at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the late 19th century were buried Saturday evening in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Veterans Cemetery. Three other children were buried in familial cemetery plots. Saturday was the final stop for the children after an emotional previous two days that included prayer ceremonies and remembrances.

The nine children were brought to the former boarding school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1880. Some died of illness within months of arriving, others died years later after failed attempts of escaping the horrors of the school meant to “kill the Indian, save the man.”

The children's names are Ernest Knocks Off White Thunder, Warren Painter Bear Paints Dirt, Maud Little Girl Swift Bear, Dora Her Pipe Brave Bull, Friend Hollow Horn Bear, Rose Long Face Little Hawk, Lucy Take The Tail Pretty Hawk, Alvan One That Kills Seven Horses and Dennis Strikes First Blue Tomahawk.

Related: Rosebud Sioux tribe welcomes home remains of 9 children who died at Pennsylvania boarding school

Rosebud Sioux tribal members gather to welcome home the remains of nine children, wrapped in bison skin, on Friday, July 16, 2021 at the Student Multicultural Center at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation.
Rosebud Sioux tribal members gather to welcome home the remains of nine children, wrapped in bison skin, on Friday, July 16, 2021 at the Student Multicultural Center at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation.

On Friday evening, the children arrived in Mission, South Dakota, on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.

The small caskets were placed on nine tables with photos of the children, homemade moccasins, ribbon shirts and skirts, tobacco, and sage. American and Rosebud Sioux flags sat atop each table.

Two of the children, Warren Painter Bear Paints Dirt and Lucy Takes The Tail Pretty Eagle, did not have photos.

A ceremony, which included sage smudging, was held to unbox the remains of the children, wrapped in traditional buffalo skin. Grandmothers offered the remains spirit food that included chokecherries and water, which were then put in pouches and placed on the tables. Prayer for the children was held later in the evening.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe Repatriation: Remains of nine children returning home Friday

The whole gym inside the Sinte Gleska University Multicultural Center smelled like sage by the end of the night when a heavy rainstorm, filled with crackling lightning, came through the town.

“Last night’s rain was a cleansing,” Duane Hollow Horn Bear, an elder with the Rosebud Sioux and whose relative Friend Hollow Horn Bear lay near him, said to the small crowd gathered in the gym Saturday morning. “It felt so good to walk out in that rain and see the children playing in the clouds.”

Members of the tribal color guard hold an American flag, a prayer flag and the Rosebud Sioux tribal flag for relatives of the Rosebud Sioux children returned home 142 years after their deaths on Saturday, July 17, 2021 at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Veterans Cemetery.
Members of the tribal color guard hold an American flag, a prayer flag and the Rosebud Sioux tribal flag for relatives of the Rosebud Sioux children returned home 142 years after their deaths on Saturday, July 17, 2021 at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Veterans Cemetery.

Throughout the morning, family members of the children being remembered gave accounts of what the children faced at the boarding school and their eventual deaths.

Ione Quigley, the tribal historic preservation officer and relative of Alvan Kills Seven Horses, began to cry as she described a portion of a book that her ancestor Luther Standing Bear had written about Alvan’s death.

“‘Alvan was a very good boy,’” she said, taking a pause to sniff and wipe the tears from her face. “We were happy for Alvan when he passed on, because he was in a better place.”

An older woman and a young girl came up to hug Quigley as she continued, her voice forceful, “When children say that a child is in a better place, something horrible must have made them think that way. That he’s in a better place dying.”

Quigley also acknowledged there were still more children at Carlisle who hadn't been brought back, saying some graves were unmarked while others had only the word 'Sioux' written on them.

Tears were shed throughout the day, with at one point, when the community came up to shake the hands of the youth council responsible for bringing the children back, multiple crumpled tissues in the palms of hands could be seen.

In the afternoon, the Rosebud Sioux Honor Guard, made up of all women who served in various branches of the U.S. military, escorted the remains to a gray van, where they made the final 10-mile journey to the veterans cemetery.

Family members lowered the remains into the ground and placed star quilts and flowers on top of the buffalo skins before dirt taken from the original caskets began to pour in.

As the wind picked up, the singers sang the song of the Battle of Little Bighorn and the children rested in their graves, finally at home.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Rosebud Sioux children, taken over 140 years ago, finally laid to rest

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