A barrier encloses the entire northeast corner of 4-H Park in the area of a gravesite for students and staff at the Albuquerque Indian School. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)
Orange plastic fencing now lines the entire northeast area of 4-H Park, the location where at least 100 students and staff from the early Albuquerque Indian School era are buried.
Toy Baldwin lives across the street from the park and said he is happy to learn the city blocked the area. He wants to see a memorial to educate people who don’t know the history of the federal boarding school about its impact on local Native Americans — something he is just learning about watching this history develop from his front porch, he said.
“It’s pretty crazy. I was talking to my dad about it, because he went to boarding school. St. Catherine’s, that’s where he met my mom,” Baldwin said. “So he started telling me about what’s going on here across the street from us. Apparently I’m a survivor, since I went to boarding school and I’m Native, and alive.”
Baldwin (Diné) said he attended St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe before it closed in the late ’90s. His time at the school was mostly good, but he said the transition from rural life to an urban setting was shocking. He said it’s impossible to understand what the kids buried at 4-H Park experienced, and that’s why he wants to see a memorial dedicated to the people buried — but one that can also explain the overall history of the boarding school that existed for 100 years next door to the 4-H Park.
“On the other side of the park they have kids’ practices for their football, and cheerleaders are set up. A lot of people utilize this park,” Baldwin said. “But if they only knew what it was about, then they’d have to respect it.”
The public will have four more opportunities to discuss what’s next for the Albuquerque Indian School burial site at the city run 4-H Park in January (info below). It also set up legal protections for the fenced in area around the park. Signs placed around the new fencing state, “It is unlawful to disturb marked burial grounds and a violation can result in a fourth-degree felony charge.”
Thursday, city officials said they met with tribal leaders from Laguna Pueblo, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Cochiti Pueblo and the Navajo Nation to discuss their perspectives and priorities for what to do with the park.
“A high priority for tribes and Pueblos, and the general public, is learning more about the site,” said David Simon, director of the city Parks and Recreation Department.
Tribal consultation has been at the forefront since the city began the process in the summer to determine what to do with the burial site at its park.
Their efforts also include the collection of material from the Albuquerque Indian School, such as school records and information from local, state and federal archives.
A company will scan the site with ground-penetrating radar that will determine the number and locations of the remains. That’s expected to begin in late December.
Further engaging in a commitment to redesign the park, the city said it has landscape architecture firm Consensus Planning assisting with whatever changes come.
Rose Daniels also lives in the neighborhood around the 4-H Park. Friday, she was walking her dog in her yard across the street.
“I used to take my dogs over there,” she said, pointing to the area now fenced off. “I don’t anymore, and it’s not even a big deal.”
She said she also wants the city to keep the gravesite restricted and create a memorial with information about the significance of the site. A parking lot would be good, too, Daniels added, because she’s noticed more traffic in the area with people coming to pay respect at the site.
“They come by and are very respectful. We even put out some stuffed bears for the kids,” she said. “It’s messed up this happened. These were just kids. I think the city needs to do something soon.”
The City of Albuquerque will host 4 public meetings for anyone with input on next steps with the gravesite at 4-H Park.
- Tuesday, Jan. 11 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Los Duranes Community Center (2920 Leopoldo NW)
- Wednesday, Jan. 12 from 4:30-6:30 p.m., virtual
- Thursday, Jan. 13 from 1:30-3:30 p.m., virtual
- Friday, Jan. 14 from 9:30-11:30 a.m., virtual
Registration is required for the in-person meeting, and COVID-safe practices will be in place, so wear a mask. More information can be found here.
Anyone can leave a comment anytime by emailing the City of Albuquerque’s Office of Equity and Inclusion at [email protected]
The city posted info about the history of 4-H Park, including a detailed action plan.
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