That was the last line in a post about remembering those buried at Hiawatha Asylum. The ceremonies and remembrances were carried out early this month, but there is a weight of unbearable sadness. Not just over the crime of locking people up in the asylum. Not just over the maltreatment of those locked up in the asylum. Not just the terrible weight of grief borne by those who suffered the poisonous touch of the asylum. Yet another weight is the ever ongoing disrespect shown to Indigenous people across Turtle Island. Where are the dead of Hiawatha Asylum? In between the fourth and fifth fairways of the Hiawatha Golf Club course. Golfers waited to play through while the 21 Arrow salute took place.
Sunday morning, June 5, this hallowed ground was fairly warm by 10 a.m. Standing by the lone granite marker, whose bronze plaque carries the names of 120 of those buried somewhere close beneath it, I heard a soft rustle behind me. Ten feet west of the split rails stood a young man with a golf club who appeared to be waiting, more or less patiently. Lying in front of him was a golf ball.
I exited the cemetery on the west side and stopped by a tree. After a few practice swings, the young man approached his ball and then struck it. It skittered beneath the rail, through the cemetery, and out the east end, headed for the fourth green. I thought of Arlington National Cemetery. Would they allow this young man to “play through” there? I then thought of the mass burial site at Wounded Knee, and how nice it would be if it were surrounded by Hiawatha’s manicured lawns and lush and well-pruned trees. But not if it came with golfers.
Before the salute, Dr. Erich Longie, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Spirit Lake Dakota Sioux Tribe in Spirit Lake, North Dakota spoke. Longie reminded everyone that it is the nature of tribal peoples to keep their ancestors with them always; in their hearts, their minds, and their prayers. Longie also pledged to go back to Spirit Lake and see if he could get his tribe to help fund the purchase and construction of a new fence around the cemetery.
Given the golfer earlier that morning, Longie’s pledge seemed timely.
David Rooks has an excellent 2 page article about the ceremony, and about Hiawatha Asylum: A 21-Arrow Salute: ‘Come See the Crazy Indians’