Restoration Progress Update

UPDATE FOR JULY 10, 2015

May 26, 2015, acquired map/new plat of the Indian Agency Cemetery from Mark Hill, director cemetery from Fort Sill. This map is installed at the cemetery gate before entering the site.

For those who are not familiar with this project, Clark and I have fought this eight and half long year battle to preserve and restore the Indian Agency Cemetery.  It was not easy, but we had God on our side.

I want to especially thank Towana Spivey with all the help and advices he had given us through the years. Of course we want to thank our friends and supporters who stood by us from the beginning.  The individuals buried at this cemetery can now rest in peace and hope Fort Sill will keep their November 2013 agreement.

 

May 22, 2015, Mark Hill says it will be open 8am-5pm for Memorial Day.  I had written a letter to Col. Glenn Waters back in April 8th requesting the gate to be open from 7am-7pm, but I haven't heard from him.  All week I have been trying to reach Col. Waters and his secretary, Beverly, had told me she was looking for a budget to pay the EOC staff for the overtime on Memorial Day.  I finally got hold of Col. Waters and in essence he had told me that he doesn't do "individual requests" to open the gate.  He further said that I had to go ask the Comanche Nation and the committee for my request, and said it wasn't his responsibility regarding the cemetery. I reminded him of the November 2013 MOA agreement in which it states that on item 3, second and third sentence says: "The cemetery will be open from 8AM to 5PM daily and at other times if written request for access is provided to the Garrison Commander no less than 30 days in advance." Again, he says he is not responsible for that and states the Comanche Nation is sovereign.

I want to believe that my request was going to be granted because of Beverly's comment.  That didn't happen.  Col. Waters quickly dismissed me.

 

May 13, 2015, a dedication ceremony took place at the Indian Agency Cemetery on Henry Post Army Airfield, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  A historic day and yet the descendants were not invited, only "selected audiences" were in attendance.  Chairman Wallace Coffey from the Comanche Nation and a few Comanche Business Committee members; Col. Glenn Waters, Garrison Commander from Fort Sill and a couple officials; the news crew from channel 7, and the Karty Family were at this historical event.

I, Rosemarie, did not know of this dedication ceremony until I had received a phone call from Clark's relatives telling me to turn on the television that afternoon.  I was told from Col. Waters and Chairman Coffey that I would be informed of the dedication ceremony and they did not keep their word.  I have spoken to other descendants since of the dedication and they were very upset and disappointed of the situation.  Why were the descendants excluded from this historical event?

 

UPDATE FOR APRIL 27, 2015

January 27, 2015, the Clark Twins grave markers were finally installed.  The next day the Clark clan paid their respects.  Rose Nauni gave the opening prayer and Valerie Clark gave the closing prayer.  We visited with each other and left an hour later. It was a very good day. 

March 27, 2015, the remaining grave markers were all installed at the Indian Agency Cemetery.  As you know last year's GPR study resulted in finding 20 additional unknown's and they are marked in a red flag.  The total count for the graves are 129.

April 6, 2015, there is a temporary driveway to the Indian Agency Cemetery.  I don't know when it was installed.

 

 

UPDATE FOR JUNE 27, 2014

As of June 11, 2014, I, Rosemarie Clark, was present at the Indian Agency Cemetery.  The Clark Twins were the very first ones that dirt was placed on top of their grave slabs.  This was done shortly before nine o'clock in the morning.  Mark A. Hill, from the Department of Public Works Cemetery Administrator, placed temporary markers for the Clark Twins.  Sarah (Tissywahwoonard) grave slab was covered with dirt at 10:40 am. 

At 11:19 am, Kate Karty's Children grave slab was covered with dirt.  The Karty family members were in attendance to witness this event.  Kenneth and Cornelia Karty; George Karty; Denise Karty; and Paula Karty were present in this solemn day. 

The cemetery fence was operating wireless, but the phone and camera were not installed yet. 

As of June 16, 2014, was the second and last day to cover the grave slabs with dirt at the Indian Agency Cemetery.  The cemetery caretakers first started to cover Esarooah's grave slab with dirt at 9:27 am. The last one to fill with dirt on their grave slab was Cequah at 11:48 am. 

 

UPDATE FOR DECEMBER 6, 2013

The following is a true copy of the Plan of Action dated November 21, 2013.  Signed at the Hall of Heroes, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

PLAN OF ACTION for the Indian Agency Cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, November 21, 2013.

1.  Background

Representatives of the U.S. Army (Army) and the Comanche Nation (collectively the Parties) met on September 4, 2013 and reached the following plan of action for improvements to and other matters regarding the Indian Agency Cemetery (IAC) located at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  The Delaware Nation, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, the Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, the Wichita and Affiliated Tribe (sic) and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma (collectively the Concurring Parties) have all been invited to join as concurring parties to this plan of action.

 

2.  Headstones / Flat Markers

Prior to the installation of markers the Army will conduct the Ground Penetrating Radar study agreed to in the June 11, 2012 Memorandum of Agreement Among the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Sill, the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Regarding Improvements to the Indian Agency Cemetery, 4900 Area Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The Parties agree that either marble or granite flat markers provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs will be placed at the head of every identified grave within the IAC, except as set forth below.  The Army will order and place each marker.  The Comanche Nation will provide the Army with their preference of either marble or granite markers within 30 days of the signing of this document.  All the graves within the IAC will have markers made of the same material.

Each marker will be inscribed with the name, the date of birth, and date of death of the deceased, if known.  If the name of the deceased is unknown, the marker will only read "Unknown."  If the name of the deceased is known, but either the date of birth or the date of the death is not known, the marker will only contain the name of the deceased.

If conclusive evidence is found that multiple unknown persons are buried in a single grave, the marker will read "Multiple Unknowns." 

In compliance with the Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470f) process, the Army will initiate consultation with  consulting parties and solicit public input.  As part of the consultation process, the Army will publish notification of the intent to install markers, no less than 60 calendar days prior to the installation.  If the next-of-kin of a known deceased buried in the IAC desires that the grave not have a marker, the next-of-kin must provide a written statement to such effect to the Garrison Commander of Fort Sill prior to the expiration of the 60 day notice period.  The Garrison Commander will provide public notification of the written statements received by the next-of-kin.  If such written statement is provided to the Garrison Commander and no other next-of-kin comes forth disagreeing with such statement, the grave will not have a marker placed, but the Army will mark the location of the grave on the GPS map of the IAC.  The next-of-kin will be decided in accordance with Oklahoma state law.  If the next-of-kin disagree regarding the placement of a marker, the Army will not place a marker on the grave until all next-of-kin have agreed on a course of action or an authorized representative is appointed to make a decision.

Nothing in this document shall be construed to limit the rights of the Indian Tribal Governments to stand as next-of-kin parens patriae in accordance with applicable United States and Oklahoma state law.

The Army will uncover all concrete slabs on graves within the IAC.  If previously undiscovered concrete slabs are found, the Comanche Nation and all Concurring Parties will be provided ten calendar days notice prior to the Army beginning the uncovering of these previously undiscovered concrete slabs.  For previously documented concrete slabs, the Comanche Nation and all Concurring Parties will be provided ten calendar days notice prior to the Army beginning the uncovering of these previously documented concrete slabs.  The Comanche Nation and Concurring Parties, along with the Consulting Parties as defined in the June 11, 2012 MOA, will be provided the opportunity to have observers present while the concrete slabs are being uncovered.  Any observers will be required to have proper protective equipment and adhere to the site safety work plan.  The Comanche Nation and all other Concurring Parties will be provided with approximately 60 calendar days of notice prior to the Army completing the uncovering of the final concrete slab.  Before the concrete slabs are recovered (sic) and the surrounding area leveled, the Comanche Nation and the Concurring Parties will have an opportunity to conduct a ceremony within 15 calendar days of the uncovering of the final concrete slab.

 

3.  Access to the IAC 

The Army will install a two way phone system at the gate outside of the IAC which will allow Army personnel to remotely unlock a gate for visitors to the IAC when the cemetery is open.  The cemetery will be open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily and at other times if written request for access is provided to the Garrison Commander no less than 30 days in advance.  This system will include the use of surveillance cameras at the fence line.  The gate wil be large enough to allow motorized scooters and golf carts to pass through.  The cameras that view the cemetery will not be used during ceremonies at the cemetery if a written request is presented to the Garrison Commander no less than 30 days prior to the date of the ceremony.

The Army will install a two way phone system at the vehicle gate outside of the IAC which will allow Army personnel to remotely unlock the vehicle gate for visitors to the IAC when the cemetery is open.  The purpose of this gate is to allow individuals with disabilities and/or their caretakers that are unable to utilize other methods of motorized transportation, to drive their vehicle through the remote access gate for purposes of passenger loading and unloading.  Parking is not authorized inside the fence line without prior permission from the Fort Sill Garrison Commander.  Visitors wishing to utilize the vehicle gate may be required, at the discretion of the Fort Sill Garrison Commander, to submit a written request to be added to an access roster of persons pre-authorized to utilize the vehicle gate.  Visitors utilizing the vehicle gate are prohibited from driving in the IAC, driving on the pedestrian/golf cart path and understand that Fort Sill may due to ground conditions (for example, but not limited to, muddy or wet conditions) temporarily limit vehicle access to the IAC.  The vehicle gate will normally be open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily and at other times if written request for access is provided to the Garrison Commander no less than 30 days in advance. 

The Comanche National hereby proffers an unsolicited gift of $10,000.00 to the United States Army Garrison Fort Sill for improvements to the public access to the Indian Agency Cemetery.

If there are issues with the operation of the phone system, the Comanche Nation will provide immediate written notice to the Garrison Commander.  There will be a six month trial period for the phone access system.  If at the end of the six month trial period the system fails to provide reliable access, the parties agree to reconvene and discuss alternatives.  The six month trial period will begin upon the Army providing notice to the Comanche Nation that the system has been installed and is functional.  The Army will make all reasonable efforts to begin work promptly in the fiscal year starting October 1, 2013. 

The Army will install a ground covering material from the gate to the closest edge of the IAC.  The purpose of this ground covering is to ease the passage of wheel chairs, motorized scooters and golf carts from the fence line to the edge of the IAC.  The covering will not make any significant disturbance beneath the ground and will be fully reversible. 

The Army will create parking spaces immediately outside the gate utilized to access the IAC.  These spaces will have signage designating them as parking for visitors to the IAC and will include at least three spaces marked as "handicapped" spaces.  One of these handicapped spaces will be van accessible.

The Comanche Nation and the Concurring Parties agree that they will provide the Army with no less than 30 days written notice of their desire to hold any ceremony or event at the IAC with attendance that will exceed the number of parking spaces at the IAC.  The Army agrees that with no less than 30 days written notice of such an event, the Army will provide additional parking and traffic control assistance to the party holding the event as long as mission allows. 

 

4.  Protection of the Cemetery

The Army agrees to designate the area immediatley above the IAC a "no hover" zone.

The Army agrees to designate the IAC as a cemetery which will result in it being a "no training" area.  Further, the Army agrees that anytime training is authorized in the area surrounding the IAC, the Army will place temporary barriers immediately outside the boundaries of the IAC to prevent inadvertent training entries into the IAC. 

The IAC is closed for new burials.

IAC grounds will be cared for by the team who cares for the Fort Sill Post Cemetery grounds.

 

5.  Miscellaneous Provisions

The Army will comply with Section 106 (NHPA) and its implementing regulations in 36 C.F.R Part 800 for any provisions of this plan of action that constitute a new federal undertaking.

The stipulations of this plan of action are subject to the provisions of the Anti-Deficiency Act.  If compliance with the Anti-Deficiency Act permanently alters or impairs the Army's ability to implement the stipulations of this plan, the Army will immediately notify the Comanche Nation and the Consulting Parties.  A mutually agreeable time will be selected for the parties to meet and resolve the outstanding issues.  Such a meeting only pertains to any portion of this plan that the Army is incapable of carrying out due to the provisions of the Anti-Deficiency Act.  The Parties' responsiblity to carry out all other actions subject to the terms of this plan of action, that are not subject to the prohibitions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, remain unchanged.

As an active military airfield, it may be necessary to deny access as provided herein during activities which require a high level of security.  Due to security issues, the Army is unable to provide advance notice of when these activities will occur.

The Army will place a low profile directional sign in the IAC and an informational sign at the gate to the IAC.  Comanche Nation will provide the Army with their preference regarding the content of these signs within 30 days of the signing of this document.

Signed and dated this 21st day of November, 2013:

Patrick Hallinan, Executive Director Army National Military Cemeteries

Glenn Waters, Colonel, U.S. Army Commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Sill

Wallace Coffey,Chairman Comanche Nation Business Committee

Mack Mike Mahsetky, Jr., Vice Chairman Comanche Nation Business Committee

Gary Tahmahkera, Secretary/Treasurer Comanche Nation Business Committee

Jonathan Poahway, Comanche Nation Business Committee

Harry Mithlo, Comanche Nation Business Committee

Sonya Nevaquaya, Comanche Nation Business Committee

Jack Codopony, Comanche Nation Business Committee

 

 UPDATE FOR NOVEMBER 21, 2013

A signing ceremony was arranged at the Hall of Heroes, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, on November 21, 2013, at which time the Plan of Action was approved.

The Plan of Action is merely an extension of the Memorandum of Agreement dated June 11, 2012.  It is, in fact, a rather crude “extension” of the MOA in that it leaves open many questions as to what is to be carried forward from one document to the next.  I suppose little can be done about that now.

The Plan of Action supposedly, but not explicitly, moves forward the GPR study which previously was to be done within 4 years of June 11, 2012.  Additionally, it calls for the placement of in-ground marble or granite grave markers.  In a confusing narrative, the plan calls for the grave slabs to be uncovered for the purpose of ensuring the inscriptions on the new grave markers are correct.   And then, for no good reason, Fort Sill is to re-cover the grave slabs.  The supposed reason is that uncovering these slabs will create puddle cavities, but Fort Sill has not worried about that ever before and as an act of utter disrespect was responsible for covering the graves with dirt in 1954 so they could land military aircraft over these very graves.  Makes you wonder about future plans, doesn’t it?

Again, in confusing and conflicting language, Fort Sill has agreed to place certain signage about, but not on, the cemetery.

As a final act of continued disrespect, Fort Sill has imposed a series of stipulations which complicate our elderly and handicapped getting to and from the cemetery proper.  They have placed in effect various restrictions and prohibitions which will make it eminently more difficult to gain access to the cemetery.  Our idea of the repositioning of the security fence was given short shrift and, in lieu of that economical plan, Fort Sill has chosen to develop this new, unworkable plan which is grossly more costly because it involves activities which will be required in perpetuity.  The relocation of the fence would better solve the issue of unfettered access and would be essentially a one-time expenditure of federal monies.

To our shock and dismay, the Comanche Nation agreed to pay the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Sill a sum of $10,000.00 for what are supposed to be “improvements” to public access.  In the most simple terms, it is not so.  This payment is merely a “ransom” paid to settle the issue of unfettered access.  The expressed will of the next-of-kin, of the NAGPRA Board, and of the Comanche Business Committee itself has been rudely ignored and disrespected.  Nothing has changed since Fort Sill took over the parcel of land where the cemetery lays.  The powerful and influential Army continues to impose its heavy hand on this hapless cemetery.

Having worked for over seven years on this project, it is our hope those in a position of leadership will continue to fight for what is good and right for this cemetery.  All we have asked is that this cemetery be treated on a par with the other five cemeteries on Post.

Thus there is good news and bad news as fallout from this Plan of Action.  In our opinion, the bad news outweighs the good.  It is a given this cemetery’s plight should never have happened in the first place and should be resolved in favor of those buried at this hallowed place.  

 

 UPDATE FOR SEPTEMBER 4, 2013

The Comanche Nation’s attorneys worked with Fort Sill's leadership throughout July and August to arrange a meeting to discuss modifications to the infamous MOA dated June 11, 2012.  They made contact with the General Counsel of the U.S. Army and developed some ground rules for this meeting.  Attending this meeting were: COL Glenn Waters, Mr. Justin Buller, Ms. Kathleen McLaughlin, Mr. Tom Kelly, Ms. Melissa Heindselman, Mr. David Fritz, Mr. Glen Wheat, SSG Allison Allen (Reporter), Chairman Wallace Coffey, Mr. Walter Echo-Hawk, Mr. Michael McBride, Mr. Jonathan Rector, Mr. Towana Spivey, and Mr. Trevor Ware.

This meeting touched on a wide range of subjects and set the groundwork for the Plan of Action which was to follow.  Considerable attention was given to the placement of grave markers, the GPR study, and aspects of the tribe’s request for unfettered access.

At or about the noon hour, the group assembled at the cemetery for an on-site visit.  The group walked to the cemetery proper from the Post Road parking lot.

Mr. Trevor Ware represented the Caddo Nation and was the only one of the Fort Sill affiliated tribes, other than the Comanche Nation, represented in the meeting.  A voluminous and often imprecise transcript of the meeting reveals virtually all of what had been previously discussed in our Phase I and Phase II meetings with Fort Sill was rehashed.  

Wahnne and Rosemarie Clark were not invited to attend this meeting.

 

UPDATE FOR JULY 21, 2013

4th in a Series published in the SUNDAY (Lawton) CONSTITUTION, July 21, 2013

Indian Agency Cemetery, Henry Post Army Airfield, Fort Sill

Remnants of old landing lights can still be found a few feet from the graves of 114 Comanche Indians buried on Fort Sill’s Henry Post Army Airfield.  The graves are on an old sod landing strip on the east end of the airfield just northwest of the intersection of Rogers Lane and I-44.  It will never be known how many landings and take-offs occurred across the graves of these hapless individuals whose fate it was to be buried there around the turn of the 20th Century.  Military helicopters landed on top of the graves in the late-1970s and early-1980s.  Had this happened at Lawton’s Highland Cemetery, the matter would be a source of unrestrained indignation and protestation.  Why does Fort Sill’s abuse of this Indian Agency Cemetery not evoke the same indignation?  The egregious acts of disrespect are equally as repulsive as the 2010 scandal at Arlington National Cemetery which has offended the nation.  When will Fort Sill get the message?  Visit our web site:   ftsillindianagencycemetery.com   to learn more about our efforts to bring dignity and respect to this cemetery.

 

UPDATE FOR JULY 14, 2013

3rd  in a Series published in the SUNDAY (Lawton) CONSTITUTION, July 14, 2013

Recent desecration at the 

Indian Agency Cemetery, Henry Post Army Airfield, Fort Sill

Since 1954, the 109 Comanche graves at the Indian Agency Cemetery have been covered with dirt placed there by the U.S. Army to accommodate military aircraft landings.  Thus, family and friends of those interred in this scandalously treated cemetery have been unable to know who is buried where.  Our efforts to persuade Fort Sill to mark these graves have been fruitless.  This past Memorial Day, using temporary home-made markers, we marked each grave including the graves of unknowns.  On July 1, 2013, we visited the cemetery only to find Fort Sill had allowed the landscaping contractor to destroy these markers with their mowing machines.  Of the 109 markers, only 34 remained and those were all damaged and strewn from place to place.  What happened is calloused and unbefitting of a caring federal agency.  We were not given the courtesy of a telephone call to allow us to remove and preserve these temporary markers before this inexcusable and disrespectful destruction was allowed.  Of all the things Fort Sill has done to discourage and delay returning respect and honor to this cemetery, their destruction of these markers is outrageous and unforgivable.  MG Mark McDonald has not acknowledged our letter of concern.  For further details of Fort Sill’s insensitivity and indurate attitude toward the Comanche people, visit our web site at: ftsillindianagencycemetery.com 

 

UPDATE FOR JULY 7, 2013

2nd  in a Series published in the SUNDAY (Lawton) CONSTITUTION, July 7, 2013

Indian Agency Cemetery, Henry Post Army Airfield, Fort Sill

Did you know there is an abandoned Comanche Cemetery on Henry Post Army Airfield?  Did you know the Army has buried 4 donkeys and 2 goats at the west end of the famed Medicine Bluffs?  These animals had served as the faithful mascots of the 2-2nd Field Artillery Brigade.  The mascot cemetery is better maintained than the abandoned and neglected Indian Agency Cemetery.  It is appropriate and fitting these mascots are so honored, but it defies common sense to know that Fort Sill does not equally so honor the graves of 114 Comanche Indians.  For decades Fort Sill has done everything in its power to see that this Comanche Indian cemetery is forgotten.  The time has long past for Fort Sill to live up to its responsibilities to care for the Indian Agency Cemetery on a par with the five other Post cemeteries.  Visit our web site:   ftsillindianagencycemetery.com   to learn more about our efforts to bring dignity and respect to this cemetery.

 

UPDATE FOR JUNE 30, 2013

 1st in a Series published in the SUNDAY (Lawton) CONSTITUTION, June 30, 2013

Indian Agency Cemetery, Henry Post Army Airfield, Fort Sill

Did you know there is an abandoned Comanche Indian cemetery within several hundred yards of the Lawton city limits?  Specifically, the cemetery lies defiled and neglected just a short distance to the northwest of the intersection of Rogers Lane and Interstate 44.  This is the site of Fort Sill’s Henry Post Army Airfield.   My paternal aunt and uncle, twins born in 1902 and died that same year, are buried beneath dirt placed over their concrete grave slabs by the Army in 1954 to prevent damage to planes landing.  Since 2006, we have been asking for help from successive Garrison Commanders (COLs Uberti, Bridgford, Lacey, and Hossenlopp) for the restoration of this cemetery.  Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.  A fifth Garrison Commander will soon take charge and we will continue to ask Fort Sill to return respect and dignity to this pitifully treated cemetery.  Visit our web site:   ftsillindianagencycemetery.com   to learn more about our efforts to bring dignity and respect to this cemetery.

 

UPDATE FOR JUNE 14, 2013 (Interview with OETA-TV, The Comanche Controversy)

The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA-TV) did a 7-minute report on the cemetery.  This program can be viewed on YouTube.

Google the words:  OETA The Oklahoma Network YouTube

At that web site and on the top line you will find the YouTube SEARCH box (a very light blue line).  Enter the words:  The Comanche Controversy      On the right side of the SEARCH line strike the microscope icon.  You should be at the story.

We would appreciate hearing from you.

 

UPDATE FOR MAY 27, 2013 (MEMORIAL DAY)

Memorial Day 2013 at the Indian Agency Cemetery was a special day for the next-of-kin to those buried there.  With the help of some energetic volunteers, we were able to have all 114 graves marked with miniature American flags by about 9:30 AM.  In addition, these volunteers placed temporary name plates on each of the graves which permitted a walk among those grave sites to be punctuated by knowing what grave one was visiting.  I have no way of knowing, but I suspect this was the first time these graves have all been identified at one time in many, many years.

Rosemarie and I had to be absent  from the cemetery for a couple hours while we went to KSWO-TV Channel 7’s studios to do an interview for the evening newscast.  A few days before the Memorial Day observance, I had contacted the television station to see if they could cover our process of placing the flags on the graves.  They contacted Fort Sill’s Public Information Office and were told they would not be allowed to bring their cameras to the cemetery site.  I told KSWO-TV the cemetery was open to the public.  Again, they approached the PIO and for the second time were denied permission to film our activities.  Makes you wonder if Fort Sill has something to hide.

While we do not have an exact count, we believe over 75 persons visited the Indian Agency Cemetery on this special day.  We had next-of-kin from Wichita, Kansas, Dallas, Texas, Wichita Falls, Texas, and Millersville, Maryland.  During the course of the day we were delighted to visit with several persons who had no direct connection to the cemetery other than a healthy curiosity and concern for the restoration and preservation project.  It was interesting to hear the comments bordering on outrage at what Fort Sill had done and continues to do to the graves of our relatives.

Various families placed flowers and other tokens of remembrance on the graves of their relatives. The atmosphere throughout the day was one of reverence and concern.  One could witness persons stopping to read the name plates and speculating about the circumstances that ended the life of the individual buried beneath this red soil.  Moments of poignancy occurred periodically as the visitors moved from grave to grave.

During the newscast, the reporter mentioned the Benjamin Franklin quotation which is found in this web site:  “Show me your cemetery, and I will tell you what type of people you are.”  When asked what that meant to me, I said the proper remembrance of the dead was a measure of character.  I said, further, “Fort Sill has let us down on this cemetery.”

SEE:  www.kswo.com/story/22431061/comanche-nation-pushing-for-proper-graves-for-ancestors

  

MEMORIAL DAY (Monday, May 27, 2013) will mark the second year we will have placed miniature American flags on each grave site.  Fort Sill has agreed to unlock the security gate at 6:00 AM that morning and keep it opened until 9:00 PM that evening.  Provided we have good weather, we should have the 114 flags in place sometime around 9:00 AM.  We invite you to join us as we pay homage to those who innocently rest beneath the soil placed over their grave slabs by the Army of the United States.

We would be pleased if you can fit into your schedule that day a visit to the cemetery.  While a RSVP is not required, a call to us or an e-mail ([email protected]) that you may be coming would be greatly appreciated.

 

UPDATE FOR MARCH 21, 2013 [posted prior to the Memorial Day observance]

The Comanche Nation’s leadership, under the guidance of Chairman Wallace Coffey, has taken an active role in the project.  A series of meetings have been held in which the next-of-kin and other friends of the cemetery, working with tribal attorneys, developed a Unified Position Statement.

That Statement was adopted by the NAGPRA Board and the Comanche Business Committee.  A meeting was held on March 21, 2013, with Fort Sill’s Garrison Commander and a detailed report on the Comanche Nation’s position was presented. 

Recently we asked for responses to the Unified Position Statement be sent to Chairman Coffey.  A total of 121 responses were gathered and all of these were included in the report provided to Fort Sill.

Another meeting with Fort Sill is scheduled, perhaps in May, to continue negotiations on putting in place the required restoration and preservation activities represented by the Unified Position Statement.  This Statement covers virtually all of the actions which had been previously known as the List of Ten.

We appreciate the support from the NAGPRA Board and the Comanche Business Committee. Our heartfelt thanks go out to those of you who have responded to our calls for help and support.  Together we will be able to return dignity and respect to the cemetery.

Tribal leaders are cautiously optimistic Fort Sill will see its way clear to implement all of these long-needed restoration and preservation requirements.  Only time will tell. 

 

UPDATE FOR JANUARY 6, 2013

We respectfully ask for you help in writing a short note saying (a) that you have read the Unified Position Statement and (b) that you pledge your full support for the provisions therein and (c) note if you have relatives buried in the cemetery.  You may do this by using the contact information found in the section labeled CONTACT US.  Address the note to Chairman Wallace Coffey, Comanche Nation.  Of course, even if you don't have family buried there, your positive comments are most welcomed.  We need your help.

Rosemarie and Wahnne Clark

The following document has been prepared by the Comanche Nation and represents what may eventually be provided to the U.S. Army (Fort Sill, OK) as evidence of the wishes and desires of the Comanche Nation as related to the Indian Agency Cemetery.  Currently (November 2012 forward) the document is being circulated to gather expressions of approval of the provisions in the statement.]

Comanche Nation Unified Position Statement on the

Indian Agency Cemetery at Fort Sill

          The Comanche Nation has a vital interest in ensuring that cemeteries with Comanche Ancestors interred therein on Tribal lands and elsewhere receive proper care and maintenance, and remain places where lineal descendants can observe and memorialize their ancestors in ways consistent with their religious beliefs and practices.

          In accordance with this vital interest, the Comanche Nation has conferred with the next-of-kin to those buried within the Indian Agency Cemetery to discuss certain improvements and restorations to the Indian Agency Cemetery burial grounds.  The Indian Agency Cemetery has long been in a state of disrepair, and consistent with the concerns voiced by the next-of-kin with whom the Comanche Nation has conferred, the Comanche Nation adopts the following unified position on the Indian Agency Cemetery:

1.         The historical record shows that the Indian Agency Cemetery at all times has been owned and operated by the United States or it agents, either as Indian trust property used by the federal government for Indian agency purposes or as military property.  Accordingly, the Indian Agency Cemetery should properly be classified as a “post” cemetery under applicable Army regulations to ensure high level standards for care and maintenance.

2.         The Comanche Nation and Fort Sill should enter into a Preservation Plan Agreement, which provides for the perpetual care and maintenance of the Indian Agency Cemetery consistent with the care and maintenance received by other post cemeteries on the Fort Sill Army Base.

3.         As with other sites that are sacred to the Comanche Nation and its people, the Indian Agency Cemetery should properly be protected, and made available to the next-of-kin at all times.  Accordingly, the Indian Agency Cemetery should be marked by appropriate fencing, and the current fencing which impedes access to the cemetery should be removed, so that the next-of-kin can observe and memorialize their ancestors in ways consistent with their religious beliefs and practices, without interference and surveillance and without Fort Sill personnel impermissibly invading on private moments shared with Comanche ancestors.

4.         The Indian Agency Cemetery should be treated as a proper cemetery, and as such there should be a transit lane to the Cemetery and appropriate parking made available to visitors.  A permanent sign which marks the cemetery should also be placed at the cemetery proper.

5.         Beginning in 1917, the Fort Sill Military Reservation Commanders converted the Indian Agency Cemetery from a sacred burial site into an active airfield.  To achieve this conversion, Army workers removed the head stones marking the grave sites of those buried within to prevent damage to aircrafts during landings.  In their place, the Army workers placed concrete slabs over the grave sites.  As of 1954, those concrete slabs constituted the only remaining visible markers to memorialize the final resting place of each Comanche citizen buried within the Indian Agency Cemetery.  That year, Fort Sill Army workers covered the slab markers with three inches of dirt, hiding the last remaining monuments of remembrance from view, to further facilitate the landing of aircrafts.  The Comanche Nation and the next-of-kin to those buried within the Indian Agency Cemetery take offense to these degradations.  Accordingly, the existing in-ground grave markers should be exposed, and permanent Veterans’ Affairs grave markers should be placed at the head of every burial site.

6.         Although there are currently 109 marked graves at the Indian Agency Cemetery, it is believed that the cemetery could contain upwards of 200 burial sites of Comanche ancestors.  The identification of these burial sites is of the utmost importance to the Comanche Nation, and therefore a ground penetrating radar study should be completed within six months, and should include an area of one hundred fifty feet beyond what is currently believed to be the existing boundaries of the Indian Agency Cemetery.

          The Comanche Nation almost lost the Indian Agency Cemetery because of the lack of care and the concealment of the monuments to the Comanche ancestors buried within.  Only through recent efforts undertaken by the Comanche Nation and its citizens to ensure that the Indian Agency Cemetery receives proper care and maintenance have brought attention to this historic wrong.  The Comanche Nation respectfully urges that its ancestors buried within the Indian Agency Cemetery receive the same proper care, equal respect and maintenance as other similarly-situated cemeteries located on Fort Sill.  ◊

 

UPDATE FOR JUNE 11, 2012

MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT

In April of 2012 the Army conducted a totally unnecessary and perfunctory exercise which it termed a “public outreach.”  The purported purpose of this outreach was to gather comments to be considered in the decision process required by the Section 106 statutory requirement for consultation on federal undertakings.  Supposedly, Fort Sill wanted comments on a draft Memorandum of Agreement concerning the federal undertaking.  Fort Sill received 97 responses from the public and 5 responses from consulting parties.

Fort Sill has refused to share the responses from consulting parties with us but reported 4 of the 5 responses “generally expressed support” for the MOA.  The 5th response was my own which took issue with most of the MOA terms and conditions.  We were required to exercise our rights under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of the 97 responses.  All names and addresses of the public responses were redacted in the copies provided.

Of the 97 responses from the general public, not one expressed any objection to the List of Ten propounded by us.  Clearly, Fort Sill completely and utterly ignored the public response.

A totally unsatisfactory Memorandum of Agreement was signed on June 11, 2012, by Fort Sill, the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (Washington, DC).

The summation below shows the limited extent that Fort Sill has chosen to go to provide the relief sought for in the List of Ten:

LIST OF TEN  vs.  June 11, 2012 MOA PROVISIONS 

1.    Classify the Cemetery as a Government or Post Cemetery.

Without a specific time-table, Fort Sill claims to be requesting a determination from the AHRC.

2.    Use Indian Agency Cemetery as the proper name.

Fort Sill will use Indian Agency Cemetery as name with references to Comanche Mission Cemetery, etc., as Fort Sill deems necessary.

3.    Provide a Preservation Plan Agreement for perpetual care.

No Preservation Plan Agreement will be executed.  Various existing SOPs and the Cultural Resources Management Plan will be used in lieu of a separate agreement.  The MOA couches the type of care to be provided in terms of “allowing for the unique character of the Indian Agency Cemetery.”   No time-table established when this will be done.  Appendix G allows the natural growth of the grasses to reach a height of 8-inches.

4.    Provide appropriate fencing to allow for unfettered access.

No change will be made to the existing system of requiring airfield personnel to open a locked gate.  No partition fencing will be done to cordon off the cemetery area from the airfield security area.

5.    Conduct a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) study.

Fort Sill will conduct a GPR study within four years and provide the results to the consulting parties within 5-months after the study is complete.  They have restricted the coverage to 75 feet outside of the currently established cemetery boundaries.

6.    Expose the existing in-ground grave slabs/markers.

No in-ground grave slabs will be exposed and Fort Sill intends to restore the cover on those whose top cover has been eroded due to natural causes over time.

7.    Provide a transit lane and minimal parking.

No transit lane and a parking space will be provided  Fort Sill will restrict access to the cemetery by vehicular traffic, requiring parking in lot at Post Road, and will provide a passenger utility vehicle to accommodate the elders and the handicapped.

8.    Provide a permanent sign at the cemetery proper.

No signage will be provided at the cemetery proper.

9.    Provide a permanent sign at Post Road.

A sign and a plat of the graves will be provided at the Post Road parking area.   Fort Sill has allowed itself 5-months to place this sign.

10.     Provide new Veterans Administration grave markers.

No in-ground or upright VA grave markers will be provided. 

Not included on the List of Ten is marking the boundaries of the cemetery.

Fort Sill will place permanent survey-type, in-ground markers to define the boundaries established by the GPR study.  No physical provision will be in place to prevent future inadvertent vehicular trespassing on the actual grave sites.  Appendix G promises to cordon off the site as needed during public events. 

____________________________________________

UPDATE FOR NOVEMBER 23, 2011

MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT BETWEEN CHAIRMAN WAUQUA AND MG HALVERSON

After the train wreck, my term for the meeting of September 1, 2011, there appeared to be a sense of concern from the Post Commander, MG David Halverson, the project process was being compromised.  We are not privy to the extent of his concerns with that meeting, but suffice to say he was not happy with the manner in which the meeting was conducted nor the outcome.   At this time, he called on Mr. Towana Spivey to set in motion actions which would correct some of the damage done by the September 1, 2011, meeting.  Towana was tasked to arrange a meeting between MG Halverson and Comanche Tribal Chairman, Johnny Wauqua.  Towana prepared a draft agreement and his approach was to search for areas of compromise from both sides of the restoration and preservation issues.  He then provided copies to both the general and the chairman for their independent consideration.  A second meeting was held between the general and the chairman giving them the opportunity to tweak the draft document.  Thereafter, a final draft was prepared which was to become the Memorandum of Agreement eventually signed by both parties on November 23, 2011.

The agreement provided for (1) the cemetery to be classified as “government” cemetery; (2) the name to be Indian Agency Cemetery; (3) provided for Preservation Plan Agreement, details not specified; (4) provided fencing for “unfettered” access; (5) ground penetrating radar study optional for Army; (6) study with probes cemetery area and cover all slabs; (7) transit lane and parking to be provided; (8) signs at parking area and cemetery proper; (9) directional sign on Post Road; and (10) provided for white upright marble military-style markers to be installed.

This November 23rd MOA was negotiated without the involvement of the Environmental Quality Division of the Garrison Command and it was reported that group of civilians was furious with the terms agreed to by the chairman and commanding general.

____________________________________________

UPDATE FOR APRIL 11, 2012

The Shame Continues

We need your immediate help!  Please respond by Friday, May 18, 2012.

The Garrison Command at Fort Sill has the responsibility (perhaps, better said, irresponsibility) for the care and maintenance of the Indian Agency Cemetery.  Their commander, COL Paul S. Hossenlopp sent out what may be the beginning of the end of the final chapter on the restoration and preservation effort we have sought for over the last 5½ years.  COL Hossenlopp’s letter, dated March 26, 2012, purports to be the result of a disastrous and ill-conceived meeting held at Fort Sill on September 1, 2011.

The Hossenlopp letter is a part of the legal requirements Fort Sill has whenever they undertake work involving the expenditure of public funds on matters that touch on issues which have a cultural significance to Native American Indian tribes.  Such is the case with the Indian Agency Cemetery and the Hossenlopp letter.

Fort Sill is proposing to implement a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by Fort Sill, the Oklahoma State Historical Preservation Officer, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  This MOA bears no resemblance to the prior agreements worked out between Rosemarie and me over the past several years with the Garrison Command and the Commanding General, MG David D. Halverson.  I prepared a List of Ten items we felt were absolutely necessary to bring recognition, honor and respect to the 114 souls buried in this cemetery.

I will outline the List of Ten and provide Fort Sill’s current position on each:

1)     We asked Fort Sill to use the historically correct name, Indian Agency Cemetery, rather than the commonly used identification as the Comanche Mission Cemetery.

Fort Sill has agreed to use the name Indian Agency Cemetery.

2)     We asked Fort Sill to reclassify the cemetery as a “post” cemetery rather than a “private” cemetery.  This reclassification is consistent with the Army’s own regulation which governs cemeteries on Army military reservations.  The significance of this reclassification is that “post” cemeteries require more vigorous care and maintenance responsibilities.

Fort Sill, after having waited nearly the full 5½ years, has finally  agreed to ask the commanding general in charge of the administration of the subject regulation to provide the appropriate reclassification.  It is not clear whether this change will be made.

3)     We have asked Fort Sill to conduct a non-invasive electronic survey, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR).  A GPR study will permit us to know if the present boundaries are the true boundaries of the cemetery and, importantly, whether there are other graves that have yet to be discovered.

Fort Sill has reluctantly agreed to conduct a GPR survey, but has permitted itself a four year window of opportunity within which to do a project.  This project needs to be first on the list.  Fort Sill once claimed the cost of the GPR survey would exceed $1,800,000.  We have a contract proposal to do this survey for under $10,000.  We ask Fort Sill, “Why wait?”

4)     It is undisputable that Fort Sill covered the grave slabs with 3” of dirt in 1954, so as not to interfere with airplanes landing on the cemetery.  We asked Fort Sill to remove that top cover of dirt.  First, exposing the grave slabs is the moral thing to do and, secondly, it is necessary to resolve some outstanding questions about the names on those grave slabs.

Fort Sill has chosen not to remove the top cover of dirt they placed on the grave slabs.

5)     Presently, a visit to the cemetery requires airfield personnel who must unlock a security gate to allow visitors to the site.  Thereafter, airfield personnel must escort the visitor to and from the grave sites.  We had a tacit agreement with the Fort Sill’s leadership to move an airfield security fence to permit unfettered access to the cemetery.

Fort Sill refuses to move the security fence to a location outside of the secure area and continues to insist that airfield personnel will unlock the security gate and escort visitors to and from the cemetery site.

6)     We asked for a gravel transit lane built leading to and from the cemetery and a minimal parking area provided at the cemetery.

Fort Sill refuses to provide a transit lane and parking area.  This refusal means the elderly must park 600 feet from the cemetery and traverse a grass lane, notwithstanding the degree of their physical condition.

7)     We asked for a permanent sign be provided at the cemetery proper.

Fort Sill has agreed to provide a sign, but we have some concerns about just how this informational sign will be worded and whether it will include the names of persons buried in unmarked graves.

8)     Fort Sill has been asked to provide a directional sign on Post Road.

Fort Sill agreed in this MOA to provide a directional sign.

9)     The Veterans Administration has agreed to provide free to the Army standard VA grave markers.

Fort Sill has chosen not to place grave markers on the graves in this cemetery.

10)    We asked Fort Sill to provide a Preservation Plan Agreement which will ensure appropriate care and maintenance to be provided in perpetuity.

Fort Sill has agreed to provide an ambiguous and largely meaningless unsigned Preservation Plan Agreement under the guise of other internal plan names.

As you can see, Fort Sill is not agreeing to do restoration work of any consequence, namely, an immediate GPR study, remove ground cover from grave slabs, provide for unfettered access to the cemetery, provide a transit lane and parking, and provide VA grave markers.

On April 10th Fort Sill published a Public Notice in the Anadarko Daily News (as well as other news media) which calls for comment from the public.  The period for comment will end on May 9, 2012.

We need your help to write to the address (or email) below a letter of any length which sets out your objection to the proposed Memorandum of Agreement as summarized above and include your support for the List of Ten.  In particular, we hope you will express your support for (a) the GPR study, (b) removal of ground cover from the grave slabs, (c) unfettered access to the cemetery, (d) a transit lane and parking area, and (e) providing VA grave markers.

Fort Sill is particularly interested in knowing if you have any family buried in this cemetery.  It doesn’t matter if the relationship is distant, just indicate if you have any such descendant relationship.

We need your response on or before Friday, May 18, 2012.

Write to: COL Paul Hossenlopp, Garrison Commander, 462 Hamilton Road, Suite 120, Fort Sill, OK 73503.  You may reply by email to:

[email protected]

Rosemarie and I thank you for your help.  Please send us a copy of your response. 

[email protected]

____________________________________________

UPDATE FOR SEPTEMBER 1, 2011

The restoration of the Indian Agency Cemetery has taken a severe blow.  Fort Sill's "trail of broken promises" to do the right thing for the cemetery continues.  Fort Sill and the complicit Comanche Nation's Chairman, Johnny Wauqua, have effectively scuttled everything of importance we had gained in nearly five years of negotiations.

When a federal agency (Fort Sill) proposes an undertaking involving the expenditure of federal monies certain legal restrictions apply.  If the undertaking has the potential to impact on historic or Native American cultural issues, the agency is required by law to consult with the affected tribes and other interested parties.  Short-hand for this consultation is the Section 106 process.

We began the Section 106 consultation process in June 2010 and it concluded in what is called Phase IV in the September 1st meeting.  The process has been exasperating in too many ways to list here.  It is enough to say here we have spent hours and hours with Fort Sill in an effort to hammer out a tacit agreement which is further described in this website as the List of Ten.

A meeting was held at Fort Sill on September 1st which was attended by government representatives from Washington, DC, the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Officers, tribal preservation officers from the Delaware, Fort Sill Apache, and Comanche tribes, Comanche Nation Chairman, Johnny Wauqua, Comanche Nation Secretary-Treasurer, Robert Tippeconnie, military and civilian personnel from San Antonio, Texas, and Fort Sill, and, of course, Rosemarie and me.  There were 23 persons at the 3 1/2 hour meeting.

The principal players in the meeting, besides Rosemarie and me, were the Garrison Commander, COL Paul Hossenlopp, the Comanche Nation Chairman Wauqua, the  Pentagon's Historic Preservation Officer, and the Washington representative from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The Colonel and the Chairman met on Monday, August 29, 2011, in an informal pre-meeting meeting.  Much of what was decided on September 1st had already been planned out by those two officials in their earlier meeting.  Their opinions, to the exclusion of others, were imposed on the meeting.

The September 1st meeting results were terribly offensive to us in that the main points sought for in the List of Ten were abandoned, compromised, and our protestations were ignored.  Listed below were the outcomes of the various items on the List of Ten:

  • Fort Sill continues to drag its heels on the issue of whether the cemetery is to be re-designated as a "post" cemetery.

Chairman Wauqua did not press Fort Sill to honor their pledge to have the cemetery designated as a "post" cemetery.

  • Fort Sill once again made a commitment to honor the history of the cemetery by identifying it by its historically correct name.

Chairman Wauqua accepted the name as the proper designation for the cemetery.

  • Fort Sill made a broad commitment to provide a continuing agreement for the perpetual care of the cemetery.  They made reference to some internal document in which they would set out the details.  No mention was made of a signed commitment or agreement which would bind the Army to do as it says.

Chairman Wauqua accepted this watered-down version of a Preservation Plan Agreement.

  • Fort Sill abandoned the idea of "unfettered" access to the cemetery and has offered no change to the present "locked gate" scenario.

Chairman Wauqua made no effort to insist on this vital and key item on the List of Ten.

  • Fort Sill equivocated on the matter of the Ground Penetrating Radar study and offered no schedule when that might begin, if ever.

Chairman Wauqua did ask Fort Sill to honor its pledge to conduct the GPR study.

  • Fort Sill abandoned the idea of removing the ground cover placed over the concrete grave slabs by the Army Engineers.

Chairman Wauqua did not protest the abandonment of this key item on the List of Ten.

  • Fort Sill abandoned the proposal to provide a transit lane and minimal parking for the cemetery.

Chairman Wauqua did not challenge Fort Sill on its decision not to provide the transit lane and parking.

  • Fort Sill equivocated on the earlier decisions as to the nature and look of the signage for the cemetery.

Chairman Wauqua appeared to agree with the changes offered by Fort Sill.

  • For some inexplicable reason, Fort Sill does not want to take advantage of the standard military-style, granite grave markers which the Veterans Administration has offered to provide at no cost to the Army.  Fort Sill will purchase the markers out of its own budget.  Who can explain this?

Chairman Wauqua expressed his wish to see markers placed on the graves especially in light of the fact Fort Sill does not propose to remove the ground cover placed over the concrete grave slabs by the Army Engineers.

The disrespect and defilement of the Indian Agency Cemetery which has been visited on the cemetery for over 96 years continues as a result of this September 1st meeting.  When will it end?

Wahnne Clark