Researchers discovered the names, but not graves of the 102 victims who were students at Genoa U.S. Indian Indian Industrial School. This school was built in 1884 to convert tribal children to Christianity and to assist them with their assimilation.

This discovery is part of a nationwide effort to determine the death toll from more than 300 Indian boarding schools across the U.S. and an ongoing search for a cemetery that could have been used to inter students at Genoa High School, Nebraska. 

Margaret Jacobs, co-director of the Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project, told the Omaha World-Herald that some of the 102 names could be duplicates, but that the actual death toll at the school may be much higher. 

‘These children died at the school; they didn’t get a chance to go home,’ Jacobs said.

 ‘I think that the descendants deserve to know what happened to their ancestors.’

A monument at the site of the long-closed Genoa U.S. Indian Industrial School, a Nebraska boarding school that pulled students from their families and tribes and converted them to Christianity, commemorates the innumerable students who died at the facility and were buried in an unknown location, never to be returned to their families

The site of Genoa U.S. Indian Indian School is now a monument. It was a Nebraska boarding college that converted students to Christianity from the tribes of their parents.

Photograph from 1910 showing students at Genoa U.S. Indian Schools in Nebraska. Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project researchers used newspaper and scattered correspondences in order to compile the names of the 102 students who were killed between 1884 and 1934. They believe that this death count could have been much greater.

The school (pictured) enrolled thousands of children from over 40 Indian nations during its 50 years of operation in Genoa, Nebraska

The school was photographed (photo: ). During its fifty-year existence in Genoa Nebraska, the school enrolled over 40,000 children from more than 40 Indian countries.

At the height of its operation in 1932, the conversion facility housed 599 students between 4 and 22 years old on its 640-acre campus. This photo from the Genoa U.S. Indian School Foundation is undated

The conversion school housed 599 students aged 4 to 22 on the 640-acre campus. The Genoa U.S. Indian School Foundation photo is undated.

Over 40 Indian countries were represented at the school’s 50-year existence. The conversion school housed 599 children aged 4 to 22 on its Genoa campus, which is located about 100 miles north of Lincoln. 

Documents were scattered or destroyed across the country after the closure two years later. This made it more difficult to identify and count fatalities. Researchers have yet to locate an official record recording the deaths of students.

Jacobs explained to the World-Herald that the project had gathered data piecemeal from newspapers archives, including those of the school’s student paper. Many of these children were victims to tuberculosis and pneumonia. 

Researchers noted that the common factor in spreading communicable diseases was overcrowding of these boarding schools. They also stated on their website that cemeteries are a “standard feature” at such facilities. 

One among many documents found, a report that the Genoa school superintendent submitted to the U.S. commission of Indian affairs, in 1892 gave researchers some data to use. 

Superintendent wrote that the school’s enrollment grew by 140 Southern Indian students in February. 

“Soon after they arrived, an epidemic caused by measles spread quickly through the school. One time, there was 105 people in one bed. We also had lung fever. Ten of these cases ended in our deaths. The deaths occurred in two tribes with two exceptions. Apaches, and Arapahoes.

In the correspondence, the names of the deceased children and their final resting place were not listed. 

Youths at the schools were separated from their tribes, often forbidden to speak their native languages, drilled in military-style companies and converted to Christianity. Pictured are students of the Genoa, Nebraska school in 1910

These youth were taken from their tribal communities and often banned from speaking their native languages. The students then went on to be drilled by companies of the military, where they converted to Christianity. The 1910 Genoa, Nebraska students are shown.

The two floors of exhibits at the Genoa School Museum (pictured) include a classroom set up to look much as it did when students studied there

One of the exhibit floors at Genoa School Museum includes a classroom designed to look as it did in its heyday when Genoa School Museum students were there

The Nebraska Commission of Indian Affairs used a 1920 map of Nance County to examine three possible burial locations for the children’s bodies. However, they did not find any graves. 

Judi Gaiashkibos (executive director of the commission, Ponca citizen), told the World-Herald the inability to get results was discourageing. 

‘I think America needs to take these little children back home, and if we’re not able to find them, I think we need to do something to recognize that they lost their lives there,’ she said. 

‘I have a lot of feelings, a lot of mixed feelings… As a country, I think there was a collective decision that this isn’t the history that we want to tell. The truth is hard to tell. I think it’s time to take responsibility for that.’

Researchers found that former Nebraska students are able to recall participating in the burials of classmates who have died at school. Numerous newspaper articles have made reference to the mysterious cemetery.

This photo at the Genoa school was distributed by the U.S. Department of the Interor as an effort to promote the boarding facility and its mission

The U.S. Department of the Interor distributed this photo of Genoa School in an attempt to spread the word about the boarding school and the mission of the Interor.

The working list of students who died was also aided by the records of fatal accidents that were reported in local newspapers. The World-Herald reported that one boy was identified in the Genoa Times 1909 issue after he died from drowning. 

An area outlet named another student who was struck by a train close to school. The Columbus Journal reported that an accidental shooting occurred on school grounds when two boys were playing with guns in 1898.  

According to researchers, nearly 21,000 Native American kids – or 78 percent, of all Native American students in America at that time – were separated from their families and sent to boarding schools. Many of them were made to go against their families and tribes’ wishes by government officials. 

More than 60,000 students in total were placed in more than 350 such boarding schools – 83 percent of all school-aged Indigenous children –  during their period of prevalence, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

According to Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian School founder, the schools were created in order to “kill the Indian, save the man.” 

Many youths from tribal backgrounds were forced to leave their communities. 

The academic portion of school days was usually only half-day long. Students then worked in the laundries, kitchens and foundries. Students were often loaned to non-Indian family members for labor.  

Tom Torlino-Navajo is pictured at the left when he was admitted to the Carlisle Indian School in 1902 and at the right as he appeared three years later

Tom Torlino Navajo appears at the left as he entered the Carlisle Indian School, 1902; and again three years later.

Pictured is Thomas Moore, a student of the Regina Indian Industrial School in Saskatchewan, Canada, before and after his admission

Thomas Moore (a Regina Indian Industrial School student from Saskatchewan, Canada) is shown in the picture.

Oral histories and memoirs of Indian boarding school students detail abuse and exploitation. Rick Williams, a Cheyenne descendant, and member the Oglala Lakota Tribe told the World-Herald that his great-grandmother was permanently disabled after she had been treated at Genoa Indian School.

Ida White Eyes died in Williams’ 10th year. 

At 14 years of age, she was in good health and was allowed to stay at school. White Eyes, who was completely blind at the time, was finally returned to her family several months later. Williams, along with his grandmother Louisa Star suspect that the lye soap was used as a punishment. 

‘[A doctor]Williams said that Williams saw a little light in her eyes. He opened them and told Williams, “Oh my god, someone has done something to these eyes.” 

Williams’ grandmother Star was also an alumni of the school. Williams graduated in 1914 unharmed and went on to receive a degree at the Rapid City Indian School, Colorado School of Mines, and eventually a business diploma. 

Williams muted, “You’ve got the tale of two very distinct experiences.” 

Williams is the only documented Native American who graduated from University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree. According to the Nebraska newspaper, he said that he was shocked when he saw Genoa’s school grounds during the 1990s. 

He said, “There wasn’t a cemetery. There were clues about the location of it, or suggestions that it was being covered up. But no answers.” “I was mad.”

Canada and Australia both took Indigenous children away from their families, and then placed them in boarding school. According to the Project, they have apologized and offered reparations for their actions.

More than 1300 graves unmarked were discovered at four sites of former residential schools in Western Canada for Indigenous children earlier this year. This led to the Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative being started by Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland.

Canada marked its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, a day to honor victims of our school system. 

Around 90,000. survivors of these schools have received a total $2 billion from the Canadian government. Stephen Harper, then-Prime Minster of Canada, issued an official apology for the forcible expulsion of Aboriginal children from their families and communities in order to send them off to Indian residential schools.

 Gaiashkibos told the World-Herald that she was ‘dedicated to spending the rest of [her]”Life” to locate the graves and remains of Genoa’s children. We hope that the slowly trickling of information on them will eventually lead to similar results for Native Americans.

 ‘I’m looking to see something good come out of this,’ Gaiashkibos said. 

“Perhaps that we can find a way of restoring language and culture. You must also hold everyone accountable. All people should learn from the past and be able to say that America was successful and can improve.