Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Five Native American students who died at the Carlisle Indian School to return home

Multiple white tombstones on a green field. Two graves are outlined with white markers in preparation for disinterment.
Jeremy Long
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.

Five more students who died at the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School will return to their tribes starting Sept. 11.

The U.S. Army will return the remains of Beau Neal from the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming; Edward Spott from the Puyallup Tribe of Washington state; Launy Shorty from the Blackfeet Nation of Montana; Amos LaFromboise from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe of South Dakota; and Edward Upright from the Spirit Lake Tribe.

“The Army is committed to returning these five children to their Native American families. We are truly honored to help provide the peace, comfort, and closure they deserve,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries and the Office of Army Cemeteries.

This is the sixth disinterment the Army is carrying out at Carlisle. Twenty-eight students have been returned to their native lands so far.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

Amos LaFromboise was the first student to die at the school, in November 1879, the year the school opened. Amos was 13 years old and, according to a newspaper clipping from the Carlisle Herald at the time, the boy “was mentioned before to be ill.

That same clipping says Amos’ death was “the first,” and that “we sincerely hope it may prove to be the only death in the school.”

According to records, the Carlisle Barracks Post Cemetery has 229 burial plots, 180 of which are identified as Native American burials. Of 180 Native Americans buried in the cemetery –most of whom are students who died while at the school – 157 have a name and tribal affiliation, and 23 are unknown. The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was founded by General Richard Henry Pratt, whose primary objective was to “kill the Indian” to “save the Man.”

Amos was initially buried in Ashland Cemetery, in another part of Carlisle. But his body was moved later that year because Ashland was for White people only, according to archival research conducted by Jacqueline Fear-Segal, an indigenous studies professor at East Anglia University in the UK.

Pratt sent a letter asking the War Department if Native Americans were allowed to be buried in that cemetery.

Fear-Segal’s book, "White Man’s Club: Schools, Race, and the Struggle of Indian Acculturation," details the judge’s decision: “The judge advocate general was called on to make the final decision, and he informed the War Department that ‘The deed in this case conveys to the United States the ‘exclusive and entire right of interment and sepulture’ in a certain burial lot in Ashland Cemetery in said Carlisle ‘to have and to hold’ – and it is added – ‘for the burial of such White persons’ as the grantee may admit to be buried there”

The deed to the Ashland Cemetery allowed for the burial of “White persons,” so the judge said that meant “internment therein of an Indian would not be legally authorized.”

The Carlisle Indian Cemetery was established in 1880 in an existing army burial ground in the school’s campus, according to the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. Between 1880 and 1918, 186 people — students, prisoners of war held captive in the school and the child of a Native American teacher — were buried there. Due to new construction and expansion of the campus at the time, the entire cemetery was moved to its present location in 1927.

Renea Yates, director of the Office of Army Cemeteries and part of the task force leading the Army’s disinterment project, said the army is processing nine requests for disinterment for next year.

“We have several tribes that have interest in returning their children, some of which are seeking more information about the project and we continue to work with them and help them through the process,” Yates said.

Because the remains have been underground for more than 100 years, the disinterment process has to be slow and methodical, Yates said. It is done by hand and no mechanical equipment is used.

To claim the remains of a relative buried at the Carlisle Barracks Cemetery, relatives must fill out two forms and provide a letter from a third party acknowledging a link to the deceased.

More information about the students can be found on the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center.

  • Amos LaFrombois, Sisseton Wahpeton-Oyate, South Dakota: Died in 1879.
  • Beau Neal, Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming: Died Aug. 20, 1880 at age 13.
  • Edward Spott, Puyallup Tribe of Washington state: Died April 18, 1896 of tuberculosis, listed in records as consumption.
  • Launy Shorty from the Blackfeet Nation, Montana: Died Feb. 16, 1892 at age 18 of tuberculosis.
  • Edward Upright, Spirit Lake Tribe, North Dakota. Died when he was 12 of pneumonia in 1881.

Read more from our partners, WITF.