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CABQ and Native American Leaders Host Albuquerque Indian School Cemetery Acknowledgement

City makes acknowledgement and apology as step towards reconciliation, takes up community recommendations including additional input, non-invasive archeological techniques

Today, the Albuquerque Commission on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs (CAIANA), Native American stakeholders and City of Albuquerque, held a public acknowledgement event to honor the children who are buried at the Albuquerque Indian School Cemetery in 4-H Park. This event was a direct result of recommendations from community stakeholders and CAIANA.

Click here to view the event livestream.


The event included Patrick Trujillo, Traditional Wellness Practioner, First Nations Community Healthsource; Zane Rosette, Executive Director, Native American Community Academy; Michelle Melendez, Director, Office of Equity and Inclusion;

Dawn Begay, Native American Affairs Coordinator, Office of Equity and Inclusion; a statement provided by Christine McClevae, CEO, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition; David Flores, Deputy Director, Parks and Recreation Department; and Terry Sloan, Intergovernmental Tribal Liaison, Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Mayor Tim Keller offered an apology on behalf of the City of Albuquerque, “We are here today to show respect to a sacred site…to acknowledge intergenerational trauma that persists from centuries of oppression and erasure, and to express our deepest apologies, on behalf of the City of Albuquerque for the grievous actions over the past decades…today is an acknowledgement, an apology and a reflection. In the years that followed this tragic era, the City should have done better in honoring the significance of this site in step with the Native American community. We apologize for that neglect, and are now striving to do better for current and future generations.”

The City acquired 4-H 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.

Since June of this year, the City has been seeking input and guidance from community stakeholders, including:

  • National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
  • Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women
  • Secretary Deb Haaland’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative
  • Native American Community Academy
  • Red Nation
  • Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
  • Albuquerque Public School’s Indian Education Program

Research has revealed that children from many different Tribes may have been buried at the site.  The following Tribes and Pueblos have been contacted by the City for guidance, and conversations are ongoing – Navajo, Apache Tribes, The Ute (Southern and Ute Mountain) Tribes, Hopi and Pima (Salt River Pima – Maricopa Indian Community).

“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. Today the City expressed a desire to work on each of the recommendations in step with community desires. CAIANA was established in 2018 by Mayor Keller to ensure intertribal collaboration, support tribal sovereignty, government to government relations and diverse tribal input to city affairs.  Albuquerque is the only major city in the country to have institutionalized tribal relations.

 

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. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez’s staff has provided the City with guidance on best practices for the non-intrusive and culturally sensitive use of radar technology at burial sites and the Parks and Recreation Department is working with UNM to identify archeologists for the radar survey.

 

The City is also marking a significant portion of 4-H 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 site is open to individual communities, pueblos, and tribes to conduct their own practices.

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 next opportunity for public input will be:

  • Community Stakeholder Discussion: Session 2