Hiawatha golf club.
Stock photo of golf course via Getty.
Wedged between the fourth and fifth holes of a South Dakota golf course are unmarked graves of 126 Native Americans—and a nearby Indigenous nation is trying to repatriate the remains.
The 126 Native Americans died while forced to attend the Hiawatha Indian Insane Asylum, the first and only asylum for Indigenous people in the U.S., infamously known for abusing its patients.
The names of the buried are listed here.
According to reports, the asylum institutionalized Indigenous people for simply being Indigenous at a time when the U.S. and Canada were actively (and brutally) trying to assimilate them. Some people were even forcibly admitted after fighting white authorities. The institution closed in 1934 after operating for about 30 years, but not before about one in four of its 400 patients died.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is now working to determine how to best repatriate six lost loved ones, and support at least 53 other tribal nations whose lost family and friends also buried on site, Native News Online reported.
“I have the six names in front of me, and I'm looking at them and thinking: Who are their descendants?” said Ione Quigley, Rosebud’s tribal historic preservation officer. “There will be so much pain, so [many] questions—there is already—on how people ended up there, and….what they went through.”
Quigley said she’s working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the city of Canton, and other Indigenous nations to decide a plan that will “get these relatives home to where they belong.”
BIA did not respond to a VICE News request for comment. Neither did the Hiawatha golf club, which has been around since 1948.
Conversations about memorializing, preserving, and/or repatriating the remains of Indigenous people buried in unmarked graves ramped up in May, when Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed more than 200 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. The news set off a reckoning and inspired several searches at other residential “schools,” including the Mohawk Institute in Ontario, Canada.
Unmarked graves identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and this year’s finds bring the total of confirmed graves in Canada to nearly 6,000. In the U.S, the fourth repatriation effort for children who died while forced to attend the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School took place this year.
But experts have repeatedly said that unmarked graves are all over—not just at former residential schools.
In Edmonton, Alberta, about 50 unmarked graves are fenced in an unkempt field between an eight-lane highway and a residential community. It’s one of the burial spots for Indigenous patients from Charles Camsell Indian Hospital, a centre for Indigenous people suffering from tuberculosis, known for its brutal treatment of patients, including forced experimentation and sexual abuse.
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