Sophia’s Story:Reclaiming an Orphan From an ‘Indian School’ (+VIDEO)

Source: UC Davis

August 30, 2021

A trek of 4,000 miles between Alaska and Pennsylvania is a long trip even in three planes with today’s technology, observed Lauren Peters, days after the University of California, Davis, doctoral student and her family made that journey. She and her two sons were returning her grandmother’s aunt to her native Aleut island, St. Paul Island, on the Bering Sea, after her disinterment at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

That ancestor, Sophia Tetoff, made a much more arduous journey as a 12-year-old girl. Orphaned in 1896, she was taken from the people and home she knew on St. Paul Island, Alaska, to live, eventually, at the Carlisle boarding school. Such a journey was estimated to take 25 days by boat and train at that time.

Five years after Sophia’s arrival at the school — her culture stripped from her as she was forced to work in the surrounding Carlisle community — she became ill with tuberculosis and died, a common fate for Natives at the time.


The journey to return Sophia to her remote island birthplace took about four years, starting with researching tribal and family history, and culminating this summer with Sophia’s return to the cemetery of the Russian Orthodox church where she was baptized.

... Read the rest at UC Davis.

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