“To bring them home like the bosses they are:” Send more children from the Carlisle Indian school



SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) – Native American boarding schools are a dark piece of United States history. One of the first was the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where nearly 200 children died from 1879 to 1919. Some of these children have ties to South Dakota.

Last July, the remains of nine Native American children who died at the Carlisle Indian School were brought home to the Rosebud Sioux tribe. Today, a South Dakota lawmaker and historian is working to bring more children home to the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Spirit Lake Nation.

“It is with the understanding that we are here because of them,” said Tamara St. John, tribal historian for Sisseton Wahpeton Oytae. “We’re here because of their prayers, their will to survive their fight to, you know, ensure that we have life.”

From left to right: Nancy Renville, Emily Justine LaFramboise, Edward Upwright, John Renville, George Walker at Carlisle Indian School in 1879. Not pictured: Amos LaFramboise. Photo courtesy of Tamara St. John.

The children in this photo, and one not in the photo, were the first to leave the Sisseton area and attend Carlisle Indian School in 1879. Over a century later, two of those six children are still in Pennsylvania.

Amos LaFramboise died 20 days after arriving in Carlisle. He was the first to die at school. Her sister, Emily Justine LaFramboise was later able to return home to the Lake Traverse reserve.

“Who is the son of Mr. Joseph LaFramboise who is one of us, and to use a description that I think the rest of the world could understand, one of our founding fathers,” said St. John.

Edward Upwright is the other child St. John wants to bring home. He was the son of a Chief of the Spirit Lake Nation.

“The idea that this traditional chief Waanataan Nupa, which in our language means two, he was the second, is his boy,” said St. John.

John and Nancy Renville were the children of former Sisseton Wahpeton chief Gabriel Renville. John Renville also died at the Carlisle Indian School. However, his father was able to get there and bring his remains home. Around this time, he also brought Nancy home.

“That said his sister adored him, his little sister, by his side and he had a distant look in his eyes as he spoke, spoke calmly to his sister,” said St. John. “And I can only imagine that he takes care of his sister like, shall we say, on his trip. What a loving and powerful thing to do.

Amos LaFramboise, John Renville and Edward Upwright each died of illnesses contracted at school.

“There is also the search or concern for any physical abuse and I will not at all minimize that understanding among our people because associated with our residential schools was a lot of violence,” said St. John.

George Walker was the last boy in the group at Carlisle. He was able to leave the Carlisle Indian School and settle on the Lake Traverse reservation. Shortly after, he passed away. The four boys had left in 1881. George Walker is believed to be an orphan.

“He has written letters and it is clear to me through his letters that he hopes to return home,” St. John said. “He wants to go home. I would even dare to say that he is alone.

With the family ties between Amos LaFramboise and Edward Upwright, it is important that their remains be sent home.

“To bring them home like the chefs they are,” St. John said. “You know these young men, they were that hope for our next generation, you know, and we have to bring them home with honor.”

And St. John is confident that they will do just that.

“I see nothing will stop us from making sure these things are ready,” said St. John. “Everything is rolling now, there is no turning back.”

The hope is to bring Amos LaFramboise and Edward Upwright home next summer.


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