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News Release
Researchers Publish List of Deaths of Indigenous People at Schools in Forest Grove, Chemawa - 10/11/21

Two historians have compiled and published a sortable list of Native people who died while attending two boarding schools for Indigenous Americans in Oregon. The online resource, which covers deaths dating back to 1881, documents approximately 275 students and 30 non-students who were buried at the Chemawa School Cemetery near Salem, and two who are buried in unmarked graves at the Forest View Cemetery in Forest Grove.

The site, hosted by the Pacific University Libraries, was made public on Indigenous People’s Day, Oct. 11, 2021. 

The Forest Grove Indian Training School, which opened in 1880, was relocated in 1885 to Chemawa, where it continues to operate. The Forest Grove school was not part of Pacific University but was affiliated with the university through, Capt. Melville C. Wilkinson, who taught military science at Pacific and founded the training school.

“We hope to honor the memories of the students who endured the horrible system that Chemawa once embodied: a system that was designed to exterminate Native culture and which imposed untold trauma on generations of Native people,” said Pacific University Archivist and Associate Professor Eva Guggemos, and independent Chemawa historian SuAnn Reddick. Reddick has spent more than 20 years investigating the history of the Chemawa school; Guggemos more than a decade examining the Forest Grove school. 

The researchers and others at Pacific University hope to provide the results of the research to the Indigenous people who were affected by the operations of the two schools. Ultimately, the efforts may result in the repatriation of the human remains to Indigenous lands, according to the wishes of the affected tribes.

While the conversations are in the early stages, the researchers have begun to discuss their findings with modern-day tribes to which the former students belonged.

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