By Mr. Brian Lepley (Presidio)November 2, 2017
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, California -- The Wounded Knee and Sand Creek massacres. The Great Sioux War. The battle of Washita River. The Dakota War.
In the 19th century west, relations between the U.S. Army and Native Americans were grim.
The Presidio of Monterey and six sovereign tribal nations began reversing those memories Oct. 22, burying the remains of 17 Native Americans and more than 300 funerary objects at the Presidio cemetery.
Louise Miranda Ramirez, chairwoman of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation, and Laura Prishmont-Quimby, the Presidio of Monterey's cultural resources manager, coordinated the first-ever burial of Native American remains in an Army cemetery. Ramirez presided over the private ceremony.
"I want everyone here to know this is a dream come true," she said near the end of the ceremony. "Some of those boxes (of remains) reminded me of the Jewish holocaust because these were all numbered. They had numbers carved into the bones and we could not take them off without damaging the bones. I know all native people are this way about bringing home ancestors and making sure that they're home."
The remains and objects were discovered on the Presidio of Monterey grounds and surrounding neighborhoods between 1910-1985 and were catalogued and stored in museums across California.
One of Ramirez's goals as tribal chairwoman was to return ancestors' remains to their native land of Monterey County. She recalled a meeting in Washington D.C. on the issue and urging reburial at the Presidio's cemetery, stating then "To us, it's not an Army cemetery. It's our village, and we're just returning our ancestors."
Nearly five dozen attendees from local tribes attended and participated in the ceremony. Ramirez invited Army dignitaries attending to take part in the burial preparations. Those included Ms. Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director Army National Military Cemeteries, and Presidio Commander, Col. Lawrence Brown.
"These remains have found their final resting place in hallowed ground and now take their rightful place among the honored to be protected throughout history," he said.
It is a history that tribal nations and the Army hope to continue to mend.