Native American Law

Yale Secret Society Skull and Bones Wins Lawsuit Over Geronimo's Remains


A student secret society at Yale University has won a court battle, at least for now, over remains of the Apache warrior Geronimo that a member or members of Skull and Bones allegedly stole from his grave at a prisoner-of-war cemetery at Fort Sill, Okla., around 1918, and brought to its headquarters in New Haven, Conn.

Siding with an argument by the U.S. Department of Justice, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., held that the government hadn’t waived its sovereign immunity, and hence federal officials can’t be sued in the case to force them to permit Geronimo’s descendants to remove his remains still at Fort Sill and reinter them in New Mexico near his birthplace, reports the Yale Daily News.

And, as far as the secret society is concerned, U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts held that the law under which Skull and Bones was sued, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, only applies to grave robberies that took place after its enactment in 1990.

Attorney Ramsey Clark, who formerly served as U.S. attorney general, is representing the plaintiffs in the case. He says they are disapppointed in the July 27 ruling and intend to fight on, the student newspaper reports.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com (June 2009): “DOJ Enters Fray Over Geronimo Skull Possibly Held By Yale Secret Society”

Associated Press: “Judge dismisses lawsuit against Yale’s Skull and Bones over Geronimo’s remains”

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