Imagine the scandal.

A well known war leader’s body was taken from a cemetery on Federal land, and his skull used as an object of ridicule by the enemy. The family is requesting their return, but the bones are owned by a group that includes some of the most influential people in the land, so their request is ignored.

It would make you mad, wouldn’t it?

Well, apparently if you are a big shot you can do that and get away with it.

It seems that the notorious “Skull and Bones” Society of Yale uses the skull of Apache chief Gernomino in their ceremonies.

There is some controversy if this is true. Geronimo was buried in a cemetery at Fort Sill Oklahoma, yet his grave was not marked, so how could the bones be stolen?

Yet the very question if their ancestor’s bones are being desecrated is important to the Apache tribe and to his family.

When I worked in Mescalero, the local Catholic church included pictures of the usual saints, but it also included memorials to Vittoria, Geronimo, and to those who died in the Philippines (several Apaches and the local priest, Father Braun, were with the New Mexico National Guard at Corregidor and in the Bataan death march).

The Apaches should not be over romanticized for their insurgency (the other Indian tribes and both Mexican and Anglo settlers suffered greatly from their atrocities). But the Apache are proud of their history, and still remember those who fought to keep their people free.

But even if we weren’t talking about a great war hero of the Apache, getting a proper burial for the bones would be important. Unlike “Anglo” Americans, the Apache and many other Native American tribes care for and honor their dead.

That is why the great grandson of the chief wants the society to return the bones, and is suing Yale University, which is asking the suit to be dismissed because the society is not part of the university.

The US Government is not backing the lawsuit, even though DNA studies could prove if any of the bones are those of Native Americans, and indeed could probably indicate what tribe the bones belonged to.

So one hopes that George Bush, both father and son, can intervene and ask their old drinking society to at least allow the skull to have it’s DNA testing.

Why only the Bushes, and not John Kerry or other famous alumni of the Skull and Bones society?

Because the urban legend is that it was Prescott Bush, father of GHWB and grandfather of GWB who stole the skull in the first place.

Skulls of Native Americans are not to be used as jokes. They belong to a person who has a family.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

She once worked at the IHS hospital in Mescalero NM.

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