The bodies of three young Native American girls are returned to the Oneida Reservation. And a community heals.

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tags: Native American history, Oneida Reservation, Carlisle Indian School

The constantly changing weather matched the emotions of the summer day when young Jemima Metoxen, Sophia Coulon, and Ophelia Powless came home, and the heartbreak of the past turned into a celebration of the present.

The morning began gray and somber during a funeral service for the girls at the Church of the Holy Apostles, the sky opening into a downpour of tears during their reburials. A burst of sunshine followed a community celebration, and a fiery orange sunset marked the close of a historic day.

Jemima, Sophia, and Ophelia were among 456 Oneida students who forcibly made the 850-mile trip from the Wisconsin reservation to Carlisle, Pa., about 25 miles southwest of Harrisburg, around the turn of the 20th century to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

The school, which operated from 1879 to 1918, was the flagship of the U.S. government’s movement to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American culture via their children, some of whom were seized and sent to Carlisle without family consent. Books and blackboards, the government decided, were a cheaper solution to the country’s “Indian problem” than bullets and battlefields had been.

Read entire article at Philadelphia Inquirer

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