City seeks public input on what’s next for the Indian School gravesite at 4-H Park

By: - September 22, 2021 4:56 pm

A memorial at 4-H Park continues to grow after being set up in June. Pictured here on Sept. 2, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Griswold/Source NM)

Indigenous leaders in Albuquerque now need the public to speak on reconciling and recognizing the mass gravesite at the former Indian School. 

“As we honor and pay our respects to our ancestors at the sacred site that the 4-H Park burial site represents,” Terri Sloan said in a statement, “we must begin the healing from the cultural and spiritual harm the initial Albuquerque Indian School represented.” 

Sloan (Diné / Hopi) is the intergovernmental tribal liaison for the city and responsible for communication with communities surrounding Albuquerque where children attended the Indian School during its existence for 101 years in the northwest part of the city. 

More than 100 Native American students were buried in what is now an unmarked grave called 4-H Park between 1882-1933. 

In June, someone noticed that a plaque signifying the gravesite under the park was missing. Led by the Commission of American Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs, the city developed a plan to reconcile and honor the site. 

Now, the city wants the public to offer suggestions, too. Two meetings are coming up:

The first forum will be hosted at the Native American Community Academy on Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m. NACA, a charter school with the largest Native American student population in Albuquerque, has a school model focused on Indigenous education. It’s home is the last building remaining from the Albuquerque Indian School campus. This meeting is focused on healing and reflection on how to memorialize the people laid to rest at 4-H Park. Anyone who attends is asked by spiritual leaders not to record the meeting. 

A community stakeholders meeting will be held via Zoom on Oct. 8 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m, and people can register here. 

This week, the city’s commission of Native American leaders sent a letter to Mayor Tim Keller with suggestions. The commission wants the city to acknowledge the site, study and create education models so people know and understand the location as a sacred site. 

To get there, the commission recognizes the forums as key in gathering Native American people from Albuquerque and nearby communities to bring their suggestions on how to best respect the gravesite.

“This is important because we have an opportunity to learn and understand from our collective history and make meaningful change,” said Rebecca Riley (Acoma Pueblo). She’s a board member on the city’s commission.

The commission echoed the statement in their letter to Mayor Keller:

“The City of Albuquerque has an obligation to its Native residents, and its government-to-government relationships with the Tribes of New Mexico to make the Albuquerque Indian School Cemetery site a place to be treated with respect and reverence out of respect for the Native students, the staff who attended and their descendants.” 

“We deserve to understand the truth, determine our steps forward, and owe the Native children and staff who never returned home to do better,” Riley said.

Albuquerque Parks and Recreation staff will assist with upkeep on the memorial that was set up by community members in June after the plaque that was first reported missing in 2019. Parks staff said they will also place signs identifying the location as a gravesite that will be used temporarily until a permanent memorial can be built.

Albuquerque Indian School Cemetery Healing Reflection and Memorial

Saturday, Sept. 25, from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Location: Native American Community Academy (held off-site, away from the cemetery, at the strong recommendation of spiritual leaders)

More information from the Office of Equity and Inclusion

NOTE: Media will be asked not to record certain portions of the program

Community Stakeholder Discussion: Session 2

Friday, Oct. 8, from 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Virtual Zoom meeting

More information from the Office of Equity and Inclusion 


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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Most recently he covered Indigenous affairs with New Mexico In Depth. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.