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Tribe Demanding Search For Children's Graves At Shawnee Indian Mission

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A sign at the Shawnee Indian Mission that reads, "East Building  Erected in 1840-41: provided a chapel and classrooms, and living quarters for teachers, Indian boys slept in the attic. The first territorial legislature met here in 1855 and enacted the so-called Bogus Laws in an attempt to perpetuate slavery in Kansas"
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR
A sign at the Shawnee Mission historical site.

With only 12 of the mission's original 2,000 acres still in state hands, the Shawnee Tribe may never find where children who died at the school were buried.

Prompted by the finding of 215 unmarked graves in Canada, the U.S Department of the Interior is launching a comprehensive review of its practices "with an emphasis on cemeteries or potential burial sites."

The Shawnee Indian Mission, in Fairway, Kansas is of particular interest to the Shawnee tribe. Even though it was a Native American boarding school, it may not be part of the federal project since it was not a forced enrollment, government-mandated boarding school.

Nonetheless, the tribe is pushing for an investigation of the mission to determine if there are any burial sites on the grounds. Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe believes that "It's not a question of if there's children that died at Shawnee Indian Mission, it's a known fact."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Trevor Grandin is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date.
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.