The City of Albuquerque invites the public this week to share any information or story they have about the Albuquerque Indian School burial site at 4-H Park. The series of community conversations is part of a larger effort to uncover the history of the site, understand its impact and determine its future. Shaun Griswold (Laguna Pueblo), reporter at Source New Mexico, followed this continuing story and spoke with KUNM about this next phase of the city’s work, what has been done so far and how everything has gone. begin.
SHAUN GRISWOLD: During the construction of the park, they actually discovered children’s bones. In the 90s, a plaque affixed in the park said the area was an unmarked burial ground for students from the days of the Albuquerque Indian School between the 1880s when the school first opened. , until the period of 1933. This plaque said that they were students of the Zuni, Apache and Navajo nations. But, we also later learned, through further research, that some school staff were also buried there, along with children from the Indian Hospital in Albuquerque. The plaque was noted missing in June 2021. This led to a comprehensive investigation into the history of the Albuquerque boarding school.
KUNM: Who is involved in the work being done to find out more about the site and make plans for its future?
GRISWOLD: The city is actually the one leading much of the effort to get information on this through the Bureau of Native American Affairs. And the city’s goal is, âOf course we’re going to lead this effort to try to find as much research as possible, but we really want to take the advice and consultation from the tribes directly. First, to understand the history of the site and second, to preserve the sanctity of the site. ‘ There is a particular element that comes with how we as Native Americans respect those who have died and how we treat burial sites. And it’s actually different between all these different communities that are brought in. The city told me that before doing any in-depth research on the site to try to understand exactly how many remains are in this park, they have provided tribal communities with the opportunity to conduct their own ceremonies. So the city has been incredibly responsive.
KUNM: What’s included in what they call their âaction planâ?
GRISWOLD: First, assess what the problem is, understanding how this process went back then. And, right now, they’re in that second phase which is considered research. Really, they want to understand how many remains there, where these people come from. And from there – back to this tribal consultation – they want to give that information to the tribes first. It’s a concept of data sovereignty, where tribes can determine if they really want to disclose that information to the public.
KUNM: You’ve been reporting on the story since it broke over the summer. What work has been done so far? You mentioned ground penetrating radar scanning. What else has the city done already under this action plan?
GRISWOLD: The city has also fenced off part of the park. There is a sign that says if someone jumps over it it is trespassing. The city has already hosted several listening sessions. And on top of that, too, you see it as an administrative action. As city council passed a resolution recognizing Albuquerque’s role during the Federal Residential Schools era. And then the mayor of Albuquerque also apologized to Native Americans for the city’s role not only in the era of boarding schools, but also in how the era of boarding schools has affected Native Americans to this day. The city is trying to form a model that other communities across the country could use to understand their own history with Federal Residential Schools, as these schools existed across the country.
KUNM: And another step in the process begins this week. Can you tell us about that?
GRISWOLD: Thus, the city will host several public meetings. They invite community members who are Indigenous and non-Indigenous to come and talk about anything they might know or any connection they might have with the Indian School in Albuquerque. The first session will take place on Tuesday January 11 at 4:30 p.m. It will take place at the Los Duranes community center. And then the others will be Wednesday (4:30 p.m.), Thursday (1:30 p.m.) and Friday (9:30 a.m.). And these will be done on Zoom.
KUNM: And Shaun, you just released a story at Source New Mexico where you spoke with a number of community members and tribal leaders. What did you hear about what they want to see out of these community conversations?
GRISWOLD: First, people want this burial site to no longer be recreational. They want it to be a memorial. They want to create something that can be an educational tool, not only for the city itself, but for all who visit to understand that this is our history and this is how we are connected – even to this day – in this era of federal government. boarding school problems.
Registration is required for this week’s events. Those unable to attend but still want to make a contribution can email the city’s Equity and Inclusion Office at [email protected]