Find the bodies

The Circle of Nations Indigenous Association put out a call to search our campus for graves a month ago.

June 14. 2021

CW: Indian Boarding Schools, Historical Trauma, Cultural Genocide.

Circle of Nations Indigenous Association calls upon UMN Morris to make immediate plans to search for unmarked gravesites of children buried on/near our present-day campus.

How many colleges in America have 2-7 murdered children buried underneath their campuses? How many colleges have gone decades without intending to search for these remains and return them to their families? These circumstances are unacceptable.

Since 2019, UMN Morris has committed to a policy of truth telling, understanding, and healing in regards to our campus’s history. We believe honoring this commitment is impossible without searching for these children and returning them to their homes, so that their spirits and their kinships may heal as well.

We are thankful for the University’s decision to cooperate with the Department of Interior’s review of federal Indian boarding schools. However, it would be more appropriate if the university led the search itself, with constant, close collaboration from tribal nations and our Indigenous campus community, rather than the United States federal government.

Search the School.
Circle of Nations Indigenous Association

Our student leaders seconded that suggestion.

There is a petition.

The University of Minnesota-Morris has a moral obligation to make immediate plans to search the school for the unmarked burial sites of the 2-7 Indian boarding school victims. These children must then be returned to their home communities so their spirits and families can heal.

This is an essential action step towards fulfilling UMN Morris’s policy of truth telling, understanding, and healing in regards to our institution’s history as a former Indian boarding school.

In June 2021, outgoing Chancellor Michelle Behr announced the University’s willingness to cooperate with the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.

However, we prefer that the search be conducted by an Indigenous ground-penetrating radar specialist, in constant collaboration with tribal nations and our Indigenous campus community, rather than the federal government – an institution responsible for destructive policies towards Native American people, including Indian boarding schools.

I assume that number of 2-7 comes from some historical evidence. I hope it isn’t more. If there are unmarked graves on or near campus, I agree that we have an obligation to find them.


  1. Rich Woods says

    That does strike me as an eminently reasonable and compassionate thing to do, even if the chances of finding any remains are perhaps now on the low side. Plus a good number of 1980s and 1990s horror films indicate what will happen if you don’t.

    (I’m going to get it in the neck for the dark humour, aren’t I? Well stuff it, it’s a coping mechanism. I can’t bear to think about children being torn away from their parents and dying in a strange place, and no-one paying the price for such an evil act.)

  2. Bruce says

    It’s really important to find and exhume all the kids murdered in the past. Especially because that will open up grave sites for the kids that UMM plans to murder this fall.
    Sorry, it might not be murder. It might just be encouraging kids to kill themselves and take out their friends and professors also (by attending class without vaccinations). Much better?
    Out with the old dead kids, in with the new.

  3. kallisto 91 says

    I support this idea, but how would you go about doing it? Please don’t think that I’m trying to create obstacles, but it does seem like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. I guess geophysics scans would be the place to start, but the strong possibility exists that these graves are under a building. Not an easy task. They should still try though.

  4. christoph says


  5. blf says

    @4, Historical records, (historical) newspaper articles, (historical) letters home, incidental observations over the years (possibly collected by interviews), interviews (both now and in the past), etc., etc., not only at UMM and in Morris, but also the First Nations. Also, possibly, “legends”, again, not only at UMM, but in the First Nations.

    Straightforward, or quick… possibly not. But “collective memory”, even when diverse, fragmented, and imperfect, is a powerful tool.

  6. says

    I just had a horrible little thought: there are quite possibly more bodies buried on school grounds (and other public land) in states where there weren’t Indian Boarding Schools, but there would be even fewer records available to suggest a search is necessary (and they’re probably under buildings).

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Check with the local political-powers-behind-the-scenes: they always know where they bodies are buried!

  8. says

    If you know approximately where to look and the site has not been disturbed, ground penetrating radar might well be able to locate the grave cuts.
    But if the area has been plowed or otherwise disturbed, a usable image could prove elusive.

    Depending on how the burials were conducted and the soil conditions, there might not be much left to find after all this time, especially since the victims were children.

    So I hope that the people involved contact a local archeologist.

  9. Tethys says

    A bit of research on the original boarding school run by nuns shows that over 1000 Indian children were forced to be students during its 8 years of existence. Some of the original buildings still stand, but as it was turned into a public college in the early 1900s, there is no chapel. I’m sure the nuns had a chapel, but it might not be on the grounds of the college.

    I find it strange to require indigenous archeologists to perform a radar survey. The current head of the relevant federal agency, Deb Haaland, is Indian, has personal experience with family being subjected to boarding schools, and has directed her staff to compile all relevant records so that the archeologists can search for any unmarked graves.

  10. Tethys says

    Unfortunately I can’t copy the reference but there are books of the newsletters and official reports given by the various schools. I will quote some of its contents, as the casual racism is littered throughout every report, but it also seems like much of the staff at Morris were in fact part Indian and took a great deal of pride in their heritage. The report notes that few of their students were “full-blood.”

    Morris had room for 150 students but ” always had more”. They had a football team that played against the local ” white boys ” from the high school, and usually won.

    The children suffered bitterly in the winter from the cold, poorly heated dorms.
    They attended church in town, and there was a small chapel in the school itself. I think it likely that any burials would be in a local cemetery, wherever they buried the paupers.