Mary Pember: Indian remains become sports trophies

"Like many American Indians, I’ve been carefully watching the current PBS American Experience series, We Shall Remain. The series tells the history of how native peoples resisted expulsion from their lands in the United States. Unlike many movies and television shows about American Indians, however, this series includes Indian film makers, scholars and advisors including director Chris Eyre, (Cheyenne Arapaho), Director of Radio and Television Programming for Native American Public Telecommunications Shirley Sneve (Sicangu Lakota), Arizona State University history professor Donald Fixico (Shawnee, Sauk&Fox, Creek, Seminole) and way too many other great Indian people to mention here.

Last week’s episode about the Chiricahua Apache leader Geronimo was especially thought provoking and reminded me of a question that continues to confound me; “Why the heck are non-Indians so interested in digging us up?" The Geronimo show brought to mind stories about the Yale University student society Skull and Bones. Rumors have circulated for years that the 175-year-old secret society has the skull of Geronimo on display in their “Tomb,” the name of their building on High Street in New Haven, CT.

Marc Wortman, former editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine recently found a letter in Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library written in 1903 by the “Bonesman” Winter Mead. In the letter, Mead details how he and fellow Bonesman Prescott Bush, former U. S. Senator and father and grandfather of the Bush presidential dynasty, stole the skull from its grave in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and brought it back to the Tomb. The letter details the theft of the “skull of the worthy Geronimo the terrible” and declares that “the skull is now safe inside the Tomb together with his well-worn femurs, bit and saddle.” (George W. and George H. W. Bush are both reported to be members of Skull and Bones. Membership continues for life.)"

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Speak Your Piece: Geronimo Remains (The Daily Yonder 5/11)

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