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PORTLAND, Ore.—The souls of more than 300 Alaska Native people who died throughout the 20th century at a psychiatric hospital more than 1,700 miles from their homes were released on their journey into the afterlife this month.

Alaska Native relatives and allies, seated around a circle in an all-day ceremony on March 9, donned regalia, prayed, sang songs, shared stories, and danced in honor of their ancestors who never came home.

Tlingit elder Bob Sam, 70, a lifelong repatriation expert and cemetery caretaker in Alaska, led the ceremony. Behind him stood a table full of children’s toys: teddy bears, marbles, and games were offered up as gifts for the young departed souls.

“In Alaska, as living people, we suffer racism, prejudice, hatred,” Sam told the attendees. “But many people don't know that our dead suffer more. Our dead are neglected and forgotten people."

Read the story at Native News Online.

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About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Senior Reporter
Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.