Andrew and Lauren Peters
In June, Andrew and Lauren Peters stand in front of the cemetery in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where they retrieved their ancestor before sending her back to her home cemetery at St. Paul Island, Alaska. (Courtesy of U.S. Army and Peters family)

Native Girl’s Remains Returned to Alaska After More Than a Century

By Karen Nikos-Rose

A trek of 4,000 miles between Alaska and Pennsylvania is a long trip even in three planes with today’s technology, observed Lauren Peters, days after the University of California, Davis, doctoral student and her family made that journey. She and her two sons were returning her grandmother’s aunt to her native St. Paul Island, on the Bering Sea, after her disinterment at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

That ancestor, Sophia Tetoff, made a much more arduous journey as a 12-year-old girl. Orphaned in 1896, she was taken from the people and home she knew on St. Paul Island, Alaska, to live, eventually, at the Carlisle boarding school. Such a journey was estimated to take 25 days by boat and train at that time.

The Peters family are among the hundreds of Native families now learning about and retrieving their ancestors from school cemeteries in the United States and Canada. They are believed to be the first to return a Native child to Alaska.

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