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City Lays Out Next Steps for Burial Site at 4H Park

Native American community working with City of Albuquerque on path forward for site

Today, the City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department, Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Office of Native American Affairs announced the next steps for the Albuquerque Indian School (AIS) burial site located at 4H Park in the northwest quadrant of the city. Organized in collaboration with the City’s Commission on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs (CAIANA), a public memorial event off-site, and an additional stakeholder input meeting are planned over the coming weeks. In addition, the City is taking action on several recommendations from Tribal and Pueblo leaders and continuing its conversations with Native American and other stakeholders in the community.

“We must address the intergenerational pain that was imposed on Native American families from grievous actions in the past,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Although we cannot undo that pain, we must acknowledge it and reconcile it. On behalf of the City of Albuquerque, I extend our deepest apologies for hurtful actions over past decades. We recognize that this cemetery is connected to a difficult and painful period of history for the Native American community. We are awakening internationally to the reality of how damaging these efforts were to remove Native American children from their families to be assimilated at boarding schools. In the years that followed that tragic era, the City should have done better in honoring the significance of this site in step with the Native American community. We are striving to do better now for current and future generations. We are grateful to all of the Pueblo and Tribal leaders who have worked with us over the past months; we are following their lead as we determine the future of this site as a place of healing and education.”

The City acquired 4H Park in the early 1970’s. At that time, it also took over maintenance of an adjacent plot of land that was a known burial site of the AIS from 1882-1933. The Presbyterian Church opened AIS in 1881 to educate and assimilate Native Children into white Anglo-Saxon society. The school was then transferred to federal control in 1886 and it operated until 1981.

“As we honor and pay our respects to our ancestors at the Sacred Site that the 4H Park burial site represents, we must begin the healing from the cultural and spiritual harm the initial Albuquerque Indian School represented, and we must remember that the school was subsequently a place of education, friendship building and home to many of our Native Brothers and Sisters, so let us come together to celebrate life for the next seven generations to come,” said Terry Sloan, Intergovernmental Tribal Liaison for the city. 

“The Albuquerque Indian School burial site at 4H Park is one of many, overdue examples for acknowledgement, reconciliation, and social justice for Native people in NM. This is important because we have an opportunity to learn and understand from our collective history and make meaningful change,” said Rebecca Riley, Board Member, Commission on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. “We deserve to understand the truth, determine our steps forward, and owe the Native children and staff who never returned home to do better."

Click here to read the CAIANA recommendation letter on the Albuquerque Indian Boarding School Cemetery Site/4H Park.

The City continues to research the history of the site, including trying to locate records about burials. At the suggestion of Native American stakeholders, the City plans to conduct non-invasive archeological investigations at the site using Ground Penetrating Radar.

The City is also marking a significant portion of 4H Park in order to show respect for this sacred site and removing it from typical park uses. Orange flags, which utilize the color of the Indian Boarding School movement, will serve as a temporary demarcation until more permanent approaches are finalized. This step is also in response to feedback from the first community stakeholder meeting held to discuss the future of the site. Read the report of this meeting here.

The Parks and Recreation Department has also established special protocols for this spiritually-significant section of the park, which include conducting most maintenance activities by hand. The City will also erect some temporary signage that will be replaced by permanent signage and exhibits that will be part of what is expected to become a more robust memorial that will be planned in collaboration with the community.

All currently-available information can be accessed at cabq.gov/4hpark.

The City also announced the following upcoming events:

  • Albuquerque Indian School Cemetery Healing Reflection and Memorial