Sunday, May 14, 2006


Lawyers and Indians Seeking Skull At Yale Club

This is some good news. There’s now an outcry about the possibility of the skull of the Apache leader, Geronimo, being in possession of Yale’s Skull and Bones Club. Lawyers are involved (which is both an “Oh oh!” and a “Good!”). And the focus is on finding out if what Skull and Bones has (or had, there’s always the possibility they’ve ditched it by now) is indeed that of the great Chiricahua warrior.

Geronimo Descendant Will Ask Bushes to Help Return Warrior's Remains
By Emily Esterson, 5-12-06

In the days of science, when Billy the Kid gets his own lawyer to fight for his exhumation so his DNA can be tested, Harlyn Geronimo says he's willing to provide a DNA sample to Yale University historians. Geronimo is the great grandson of the Chiricahua Apache warrior Geronimo the Terrible. This past week, the story broke from the Yale Alumni Magazine that the famously secret Skull and Bones society stole Geronimo's skull and has it in its secret tomb.

Harlyn says he has been getting calls from lawyers who want to help him sue the U.S. Government, which owns Fort Sill, Oklahoma where Geronimo's remains were supposedly buried, then stolen by the Skull and Bones Society, of which Prescott Bush (grandfather to George W.) was a member. But while the story recently received national play, Harlyn has been working on the repatriation from Ft. Sill of his great grandfather's remains for about six months. An active member of the Mescalero Apache Tribal Council until he retired five years ago, an artist and an actor who has played Geronimo senior in several documentaries, he was responsible for pushing for a memorial to the warrior in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico, supposedly Geronimo's birthplace. Harlyn says he wants to bring the bones there, too, to accompany a bronze sculpture and a memorial the Apache leader.

There is doubt, of course, the Skull and Bones society did indeed steal the great warrior's skull -- which is why Harlyn offered up his DNA. But Yale unearthed this letter, written in 1918 by Winter Mead '19 to F. Trubee Davison '18. Writes the magazine: It announces that the remains dug up at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, by a group that included Charles C. Haffner Jr. '19 (a new member, or "Knight"), have been deposited in the society's headquarters (the "Tomb"): "The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club & the K -- t [Knight] Haffner, is now safe inside the T -- [Tomb] together with his well worn femurs[,] bit & saddle horn."

If Harlyn's DNA does match, "I would like the Bushes to look into this and return what was stolen," he says.

In the meantime, Harlyn says that Monday, when the Yale story broke in the national news, he got about 150 phone calls from people who were concerned about the desecration of Geronimo's grave -- some calls came from the general public, others came from those who claimed to be descendents. While he has not yet formally requested help from the presidential family, he has called on Native American medicine people (he and his wife Claudine are both medicine people) to gather for a prayer session to seek guidance on how best to proceed.

By Emily Esterson, 5-12-06

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