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Repatriation Efforts

Ancestors Are At Last Given Burial

On the morning of Saturday, January 12, 2013, the remains of two Aravaipa Apache ancestors were at last laid to rest in a private ceremony, after 142 years. One was a young female victim of the 1871 Camp Grant Massacre. The other had been killed near Camp Grant in what was likely the same incident. The victims' names and clans remain unknown. Both of their remains had been illegally taken and sent to the Smithsonian the same year of the massacre, where they had stayed for all this time.

Following a series of public meetings with Aravaipa Apache descendants, it was decided to bring the remains back and conduct a respectful and traditional burial. Smithsonian staff helped to facilitate the repatriation. Special thanks are owed to everyone who participated at the public meetings, as well as to John Hartman, Seth Pilsk and Lyman Bullis for their concerted efforts to right a terrible past wrong.

Information source: “Fallen Aravaipa Apaches Laid to Rest after 142 Years,” The Apache Messenger (V.3, No. 2, Feb. 2013).

Background History

After two books published on the Camp Grant Massacre revealed a strange but true story of grave robbery at the Aravaipa site, members of Apaches of Aravaipa Canyon were inspired to investigate the mechanisms for repatriation, made possible under the Federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.

In 1871 about nine months after the massacre, an Army physician by the name of Dr. Valery Havard snuck onto the burial site and unearthed the skull of a young murdered Apache woman. This deed was encouraged at the time by a letter from the Surgeon General’s office in Washington, D.C., directing Army physicians to collect Indian remains and artifacts.

Dr. Havard mailed the skull to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., where it has remained for over 130 years. The Smithsonian identifies these remains as those of a woman 25 to 30 years old. On the forehead of the skull is written: Apache skull (female) Aravaipa Tribe, Camp Grant, A. T. Sent by Dr. Valery Havard, USA. December 15, 1871. From the ground of the massacre of April 30, 1871.

With the consensus of the great grandchildren of Capitan Chiquito, the Tribal Chairman was recently approached to request the repatriation of the remains of this departed one from the Smithsonian to her former gravesite at Aravaipa. It is the hope of the great grandchildren of Capitan Chiquito to rebury the her on the day of her murder, April 30th.

The Chairman has met with the Tribal Archeologist and has asked to meet with members of the Aravaipa clan, the tsebina zt i e, to decide how best to proceed. Any interested members of the tsebina zt i e clan may contact the chairman to voice their feelings about this matter.

Dr. Valery Havard, who in 1871 dug up the skull of a young Apache woman from the Aravaipa Massacre site and sent it to the Smithsonian Institution.

That woman’s skull needs to be returned to the place she was killed and buried, or her spirit will never rest.

Apache Medicine Man Hart Preston, 2009