Wednesday, February 18, 2009


by Pa Rock
Cultural Commentator

I grew up in the Ozarks, a rural area of America that was, and is, somewhat unique. One of my best friends in elementary school, for example, had a collection of bones that he would often bring to school. They weren't animal bones, or even fossil bones. They were the skeletal remains of Indians who had died in our county in the previous century. He had a couple of skulls, jawbones, and a few long arm and leg bones. It was fascinating to root through his collection. No one regarded Indian bones as being human bones - carrying around a box of human bones would have been perverse and disgusting!

Twenty years or so ago I began reading the Navajo detective novels of Tony Hillerman. Hillerman passed away last year after authoring a collection several books featuring fictional Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Detective Jim Chee. Although he was an Anglo, Hillerman lived among the Navajo and knew well the people and places of which he wrote. His books are amazing.

The reason that I mention Hillerman, is that the first book of his that I read, I believe it was A Thief of Time, but could be wrong about that, contained a scene regarding the relevance of bones. In that scene an Anglo lady anthropologist was going through a collection of Indian bones at a university and labelling or classifying them. As she worked she came across a box addressed to her that contained more bones. She gave them a cursory examination and then opened the letter that accompanied the box. The letter writer explained calmly that he had been out robbing graves, much like university anthropologists had been doing to his tribe's sacred burial grounds, and the bones in the box were those of the lady's grandparents!

She found those bones to be much more unsettling than the bones of the Indians.

Geronimo, the famed Apache Chief, died one century ago this year at Ft. Sill, OK, where he was being held prisoner by the U.S. Army. He was interred at Ft. Sill and that is where his remains supposedly rest today. Twenty of his descendants filed suit in US Federal Court in Washington, DC, today to free his "remains, funerary objects, and spirit from 100 years of imprisonment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the Yale University campus at New Haven, Connecticut, and wherever else they may be found." The descendants want to have the remains returned to the western United States, the birthplace of Geronimo, for a "true Apache burial," an important component of the tribe's culture.

So, if the great Chief is buried at Ft. Sill, how did Yale University figure into the court case? That goes to a legend that has been circulating since shortly after Geronimo's death. The once oh-so-secret club for irresponsible frat boys at Yale that goes by the name of Skull and Bones has been rumored to have Geronimo's skull in it's clubhouse - a.k.a. "The Tomb" - with that treasure allegedly having been stolen from Ft. Sill by some young Army officers and Yale alumnae. Prescott Bush, a United States Senator, Nazi enabler, and father of George H.W. Bush, has long been thought to be one of those responsible for the grave robbery.

While most historians consider the Yale story to be so much frat boy horseshit, the club apparently does have some human bones in its club house. In this modern age, a DNA test could verify of vilify the legend.

It is time that the government let Geronimo's remains go free where they may receive a proper Apache burial at the head of the Gila River in New Mexico. It is also time that the spoiled rich kids at Yale abandon their morbid silliness and direct their energies into public service and making the world a better place for one and all.

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