A new film tells story of the Northern Arapaho effort to reclaim children's remains from a boarding school
A new documentary about the Northern Arapaho tribe's work to return the remains of three boys who died at an Indian boarding school in the 1800s is receiving accolades at film festivals across the country, including at the Montana International Film Festival and at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival.
Home From School was four years in the making and traces the hard-fought efforts of tribal members to convince the U.S. military to exhume graves at Carlisle Boarding School in Pennsylvania and rebury the children on the Wind River Reservation.
Former tribal historic preservation officer Yufna Soldier Wolf led that charge and had some advice for museums and other organizations working with tribes on repatriation projects.
"This is a spiritual journey," Soldier Wolf said. "Keep that in mind, this is a personal journey for every tribe that goes through this process because they're put on this path to come back. And they can't receive their full lifecycle when ancestors are sitting on the shelf, waiting to be reburied, waiting to meet their relatives again. So it's a real special, unique, sacred process."
Soldier Wolf said the process was very emotional and that’s why they set careful boundaries.
"We call them protocols that we follow as a tribe. And so there were things that we were like, 'Don't film this, go ahead and film this'. So having those healthy boundaries was really helpful to know that this is what came out of it," said Soldier Wolf.
One of the film's producers was Northern Arapaho Tribal business council chairman Jordan Dresser. Soldier Wolf said his role in the film's production helped ensure the story was told properly.
The film will be broadcast nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens on November 23.