City moving forward to honor burial site of Native American boarding school students

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque and Native American community members are working to preserve the sanctity of a local park with a sad history. This park served as a final resting place for students from the Albuquerque Indian Boarding School. The city said while they can’t change what happened here, they’re ready to move forward to help educate future generations.

There’s a spot at 4-H Park that’s decorated with ribbons and stuffed animals. But if you take a closer look, you’ll discover this park actually has a dark past. “This is a very spiritual and delicate issue,” said CABQ Intergovernmental Tribal Liaison, Terry Sloan.

The words ‘Bring Me Home’ are written on orange flags and a makeshift sign indicates this was the spot of a mass grave for Zuni, Apache and Navajo children who went to the Albuquerque Indian Boarding School from 1882 to 1933. “There is a long history and it’s not the best and it’s not the greatest history because there’s a lot of forced assimilation of our Native American children,” said Sloan.

The City of Albuquerque and the Commission of American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs have been gathering input on how this site should be properly remembered. One way is by turning it from a park into a designated sacred site. “What we’re working to do now is look at how we can separate and designate this area that is at the park because originally it was a cemetery prior to becoming part of a park,” said Sloan.

They also want to find out specific names of the students who went to the boarding school and are buried here. “We’ll do some research at the site,” said Sloan. “So we’ll be doing ground penetrating radar assessments at the sites to get an assessment of what is there or isn’t there. So we’ll be moving forward we’re just waiting for more input from the tribes.”

Recently there have been international and national movements for governments to recognize the trauma these boarding schools had and still have on Native American communities. The city said remembering what happened at this site is the first step in recognizing a horrific time in our history. “For the Native community it’s going to be a reckoning and a healing of a particular atrocity that occurred,” said Sloan.

There was a plaque at the park that indicated the site was a burial ground but it was stolen a few months ago. As of today, it’s still missing. The city is still taking public input on the site. On Saturday, the city will hold a memorial event at the Native American Community Academy just west of the park from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit cabq.gov/office-of-equity-inclusion/events/event-healing-reflection-and-memorial-for-ais-cemetery.

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