February 19, 2009 in Nation/World

Geronimo’s family sues groups over remains

Stephanie Reitz Associated Press
 

HARTFORD, Conn. – Geronimo’s descendants have sued Skull and Bones – the secret society at Yale University linked to presidents and other powerful figures – claiming that its members stole the remains of the legendary Apache leader decades ago and have kept them ever since.

The federal lawsuit filed in Washington on Tuesday – the 100th anniversary of Geronimo’s death – also names the university and the federal government.

Geronimo’s great-grandson Harlyn Geronimo said his family believes Skull and Bones members took some of the remains in 1918 from a burial plot in Fort Sill, Okla., to keep in its New Haven clubhouse, a crypt. The alleged graverobbing is a longstanding legend that gained some validity in recent years with the discovery of a letter from a club member that described the theft.

“I believe strongly from my heart that his spirit was never released,” Harlyn Geronimo said.

Both Presidents Bush, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and many others in powerful government and industry positions are members of the society, which is not affiliated with the university.

After years of famously fighting the U.S. and Mexican armies, Geronimo and 35 warriors surrendered to Gen. Nelson A. Miles near the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1886. Geronimo was eventually sent to Fort Sill and died at the Army outpost of pneumonia in 1909.

According to lore, members of Skull and Bones dug up his grave when a group of Army volunteers from Yale were stationed at the fort during World War I, taking his skull and some of his bones.

Harlyn Geronimo, 61, wants those remains and any held by the federal government turned over to the family so they can be reburied near the Indian leader’s birthplace in southern New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness.

Neither members of Skull and Bones, who closely guard their secrecy, nor the Russell Trust Association, the organization’s business arm for tax purposes, could be reached for comment.

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