Disinterment of Native American children at Carlisle Barracks Cemetery

The bodies of six Carlisle Indian Industrial School students will be disinterred at the Carlisle Barracks Cemetery and transferred to their families beginning this week.

The remains of six children who died while attending the Carlisle Indian Industrial School will be disinterred in a project scheduled to begin Saturday.

This is the third disinterment project at the Carlisle Barracks as the U.S. Army continues its commitment to reunite Native American families with their loved ones. The children were buried at the school in the 1880s and 1890s, and are believed to be buried in the Carlisle Barracks Post Cemetery.

The children’s names are Ophelia Powless (aka Ophelia Powias), Sophia Caulon (aka Sophy Coulon), Jamima Metoxen (aka Jemima Meloxen), Henry Jones, Alice Springer and Adam McCarty (aka Adam McCarthy).

“The Army’s commitment remains steadfast to these six Native American families whose sacrifice is known to only a few. Our objective is to reunite the families with their children in a manner of utmost dignity and respect,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.

Army National Military Cemeteries will conduct the multiphase disinterment project, which will draw on the archeological and anthropological expertise from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The transfer of the remains will enable families to return the children to cemeteries of their choice. The Army will reimburse the families for transport and re-interment of the deceased.

The Carlisle Barracks Post Cemetery will be closed to visitors starting Monday when set-up begins until the transfer is complete, tentatively July 7. The entire cemetery area will be enclosed with privacy fencing. Access to the cemetery will be restricted to the ANMC staff, tribal members and their families.

In 1879, Carlisle Barracks became the site of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, operated by the Department of the Interior until 1918. The school educated more than 10,000 Native American children, with representation from approximately 50 Native American tribes.

Dickinson College has an ongoing project where Carlisle Indian School student records stored at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., are scanned into a digital resource center at Carlisleindian.dickinson.edu. Here is what is known about the six students whose remains may be exhumed in June:

Sophy Coulon

A member of the Oneida Nation, Coulon was 13 when she arrived at Carlisle Barracks from Wisconsin on March 23, 1888. From May 23, 1888, to Dec. 3, 1892, she participated in four outings where Indian school students are sent to off-campus worksites for hands-on vocational training. She died on Jan. 19, 1893. The Indian Helper of Jan. 23 reported that Coulon had suffered from tuberculosis of the bladder and kidneys. The student publication described her as a “nice, good, quiet girl” who “rested more quietly during the last few days.” It was said her death so resembled sleep that watchers did not realize her moment of death.

Henry Jones

A member of the Iowa Nation, Jones was a 16-year-old orphan when he arrived at Carlisle Barracks on Feb. 25, 1880. The arrival date on his student identification card conflicts with an April 1880 report in the student publication Eadle Keatah Toh. According to that source, Jones was one of eight students who had arrived March 2 from the Iowa, Sac and Fox tribes. He died on March 20, 1880, following an illness of 36 hours. An autopsy revealed Jones had a heart disease. “Henry was a bright boy, in scholarship somewhat in advance of our highest class. His death cast a gloom over our usually happy community,” the April report reads.

Adam McCarty

A member of the Modac Nation, McCarty was 17 when he arrived at Carlisle Barracks on Dec. 20, 1881. He participated in one outing from April 16, 1882, to May 19, 1883. Two months later, on July 24, 1883, McCarty died of tuberculosis.

Jemima Metoxen

A member of the Oneida Nation, Metoxen was 16 when she arrived at Carlisle Barracks from Freedom, Wisconsin, on Sept. 11, 1903. “She was not ill very long and died of spinal meningitis,” according to the April 8, 1904, edition of the Red Man and Helper. School records put her date of death at April 6, 1904.

Ophelia Powlas

A member of the Oneida Nation, Powlas was a 15-year-old orphan when she arrived at Carlisle Barracks from Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Aug. 16, 1889. School records put her date of death at Feb. 1, 1891.

Alice Springer

A member of the Omaha Nation, Springer was 13 when she arrived at Carlisle Barracks on Aug. 19, 1882. She died of tuberculosis on Nov. 12, 1883. “She was a member of the Presbyterian Church and while she was anxious to get well, [she] was not afraid to die,” the Morning Star, a student publication, reported in its November 1883 edition.

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Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.


Carlisle Reporter

Carlisle Reporter for The Sentinel.