Little Government Cemetery for Indians

In November 1896, Rev. Jessie G. Forester and his family had been sent by the South Methodist Episcopal Church to work as a missionary to the Comanche and Kiowa Indians.  Shortly thereafter, Mary Alice Mount arrived from Chico, Texas, to live with the Forester family and eventually to start a subscription school in the Methodist Mission church.  The school enrolled twenty- five or thirty pupils at one dollar per month.  The students came from the twenty or thirty homes that had been built in the Indian Sub-Agency village.  At that time, the Government had a boarding school for Indian children a short distance south of the Sub-Agency village.  There was also a school at Fort Sill which only took white children from the Army families.

The following account of burials in the Indian Agency Cemetery is from her recollections in 1937 as recorded in the Indian-Pioneer History Collection (Oklahoma), Vols. 28 - 30, Roll 10, pages 90 – 115:

The first Indian burial I attended was that of one of the Indian School boys who had died of tuberculosis.  The Superintendant of the Indian School, a Mr. Cox, called Rev. Forester to hold a funeral service at the School auditorium, as the boy had died there at school.  The family and many other Indians came to the service and then they drove to a little government cemetery for Indians (on the hill not far from the Mission Church) burying him in a grave which the School authorities had dug.  They placed a bundle of his personal belongings (as large of (sic) one of our old time feather beds) on top of the casket before the grave was filled up.  His casket was a pine box covered in black cloth, made by the School workmen, as there were no caskets nearer than the railroad, thirty miles away.

The Indians were still throwing their dead in the caves in the mountains at that time.

In the afternoon, Dr. Shoemaker, the Reservation Doctor, was talking to Rev. Forester at the gate when they heard Indian death wails at an Indian tepee on the hill more than a mile away.  “An Indian boy has died in that camp, Forester; they let him go home from school to die not long ago; he had tuberculosis.  Jump in and let’s get there and persuade them, if we can, to not take him to the mountain caves but to let us bury him.”

They drove over hurriedly and the team was being hitched to a wagon and the blanket-wrapped body was already in the wagon when they arrived.  Without much persuasion they consented to burial and drove the wagon to the home of the missionary, where the doctor and missionary carried the boy’s body into the house and prepared it for burial; then they locked the doors to the room and the doctor went to his home and the missionary went about his night services at the church.  Throughout the night the mourning family came into the yard, giving their death chants.  Next morning the missionary and Bill, the Red Store colored man, made the regular pine casket which was covered with black cloth, placed the body in it and bore it to the little church, where the School people, many Indians and some of the Sub-Agency people were gathered for the funeral service, after which they buried him in the little cemetery for Indians on the hill.  We had no flowers, as the frost had come, so we removed some from our summer hats and placed them in the boy’s hand and the mother said “chaatie” which meant good.[1]

[1] Tsaati or chaa-tu.