Recently a friend suggested that I write about our experiences at this place of extreme misery, for so many Native American children in this Country.
In 1999, Walkingfox and I took a very long journey from Los Angeles where I lived, to Connecticut where he lived.
This would have ordinarily been a four, to five day trip, but not in this case.
I had plans for this adventure, that as it began, he was completely unaware of.
You see, I had been to Reservations and places of historical importance for Native people in the West many times and I wanted to share these places and their stories with him.
He had never been to any of the places where we stopped and it was the most memorable trip of either of our lives.
We took our time and never went more than a hundred or so miles a day, it ended up being a thirteen day trip~
There was just always something to explore and learn about when it came to Native people and culture.
One of our first stops was at the Hopi and Navajo Reservations in Nevada and along the way, of course I had to make sure that he saw and experienced Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee in South Dakota, first hand.
The two places are so rich in history for the Lakota people and my own trips there had been some of the best of my life to that point.
As the miles and days went by, we made many stops and learned and saw so much, but the last stop we made before heading into Connecticut, would prove to be the one that changed both of our lives forever.
I had read about a place in Pennsylvania, a school, where Indian children from all over the country were sent to become civilized, their word, not mine.
It was called the Carlisle Indian School.
Many of these children had been taken forcibly from their parents in the West, but not all.
These young innocents, would have their physical appearances completely made over to appear to be ” white. “
They were forbidden to use their own language or practice their culture and were punished when they did.
Carlisle soon became known as a place of horror for Native children.
I was adamant about taking him there on this trip, so that we could experience it together.
We finally found the school and began the day for personal reasons at the Cemetery.
Walkingfox got out of the car and started walking slowly all around this sad place, stopping and saying prayers as he went and telling me what he was doing along the way.
There were many rows of graves and head stones, reading them was heartbreaking, as their ages ranged from only just a few days, up to about twelve years old.
It was the saddest place that either of us had ever been to.
When he appeared to be finished, he turned and looked at me and his face told me something was wrong.
I asked what and he said, ” they are not here.”
I said, ” who? “
He replied, ” the children, they are not here.”
I was not sure what to say in response to that, so we got back in the car and drove on.
A few minutes later, we came to the Fire Station and we went inside.
A very nice man came over and they began talking.
He told the man what he had already said to me.
The man gave him a look, that I will never forget.
I got closer so I could hear what he said, ” how could you know that?”
” You are right,” he said, ” they are not there.”
Neither of us was prepared for what he said next.
” They are buried under the football stadium.”
They talked for a while longer, then we got back in the car and drove to the stadium.
When we got there, once again, he got out of the car and began praying for the children who had died.
But, again that look.
” Now what, “ I said?
He said once more, ” they are not here.”
We walked all the way around the stadium and finally, he got another look on his face, a better one.
He smiled, and said, ” they are here.”
I felt sick now, but he seemed to be better.
You see, we were standing at the public bathrooms and it seems that the children were there, buried right at the bathrooms.
Nothing after that day, would ever hurt either of us more.
No matter where we went, or what we saw, this had been the worst.