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Unearthed remains do not match Native American boy

CARLISLE, Pa. – The headstone bore the name of Wade Ayres, a Native American boy who died more than a century ago at a government-run boarding school in Pennsylvania and is believed to be buried on the site of what is now a US Army base.

But when the Army on Saturday exhumed grave B-13 to repatriate the boy’s remains to the Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina, they didn’t match those of a man aged 13 or 14. Instead, they belonged to a woman aged 15 to 20, the army said in a statement.

Her remains were reburied in the same grave on Monday and marked as unknown.

“The Army is committed to gathering more information to determine where the remains of Wade Ayres are buried so that he can be returned to his family and the Catawba Nation,” the Army said.

Messages were sent to Catawba and Army officials on Tuesday requesting more information about efforts to locate Wade. It was also unclear if the army is trying to match the unidentified woman to a tribe.

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The discovery came as the army exhumes the remains of eight Native American children who died at the government-run Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The excavation process began earlier this month and is the fifth such project in Carlisle, home of the US Army War College.

So far, the army has exhumed four of the children, with two already being returned to family members, one reburied and one to be returned pending analysis, according to Renea Yates, director of the Army Cemeteries Office.

The Army has repatriated the remains of a total of 23 Native American children from Carlisle in recent years, but their repatriation efforts have not always gone as planned.

In 2017, the remains unearthed did not match the identity of the child found to be buried at that property. Yates said Tuesday that an army investigation revealed a headstone had been placed over the wrong grave. “The correct child was exhumed and returned to his family and tribe the following year in 2018,” she said in a written statement.

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There could be a number of reasons why the remains don’t match the cemetery records, including ground shifts, poor records and a mix-up at the time of burial, said University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle.

“Unfortunately, that happens all the time,” Kimmerle said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I’ve done probably 40 different exhumations in known existing cemeteries and every cemetery had problems.”

The Carlisle cemetery was moved in 1927 to make room for new construction at the base, according to the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center at Dickinson College. Kimmerle said it’s possible that graves were swapped at the time. She said she suspects Wade may be buried nearby.

More than 10,000 children from more than 140 tribes attended the Carlisle School between 1879 and 1918, including famed Olympian Jim Thorpe, as part of a US policy to force Native American children to conform to white society.

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The school tried to separate native children from their cultures, cutting off their braids, dressing them in military-style uniforms and punishing them for speaking their native language.

About 186 children were originally buried in the cemetery on the site.

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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/21/army-disinterred-remains-do-not-match-native-american-boy/ Unearthed remains do not match Native American boy

Sarah Y. Kim

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