ANTA FE, N.M. --Legend has it that
Yale University's ultrasecret Skull and Bones society
swiped the remains of American Indian leader Geronimo nearly a
century ago from an Army outpost in Oklahoma.
Now, Geronimo's great-grandson wants the remains returned.
Harlyn Geronimo, 59, of Mescalero, N.M., wants to prove the
skull and bones purportedly taken from a burial plot in Fort
Sill, Okla., are indeed those of his great-grandfather. They're
now said to be in a stone tomb that serves as the club's
If they are proven to be those of Geronimo, his great-grandson
wants them buried near the Indian leader's birthplace in
southern New Mexico's Gila Wilderness.
died as a prisoner of war, and he is still a prisoner of war
because his remains were not returned to his homeland," Harlyn
Geronimo said. "Presently, we are looking for a proper
Harlyn Geronimo grew up hearing stories about his
great-grandfather and other Apache warriors who fought the
Mexican and U.S. armies.
After their families were captured and sent to Florida, 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, where he died of pneumonia in 1909.
If the bones at Yale aren't those of Geronimo, Harlyn Geronimo
believes they belonged to one of the Apache prisoners who died
at Fort Sill. He said they should still be returned.
Harlyn Geronimo wrote last year to President Bush, seeking his
help in recovering the bones. He thought that since the
president's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was allegedly one of
those who helped steal the bones in 1918, the president would
want to help return them.
But, Harlyn Geronimo said, "I haven't heard a word."
The White House did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, both
attended Yale and joined the elite club. Massachusetts Sen. John
Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, is also a
Bonesman, as are many other men in powerful government and
Members are sworn to secrecy -- and that's one reason they won't
say whether the club has Geronimo's bones.
"The reason there's all these conspiracy theories around Skull
and Bones is because their loyalty to one another goes beyond
their public differences," said historian and former Yale Alumni
Magazine editor Marc Wortman.
Skull and Bones is one of a dozen secret Yale societies,
according to Yale spokeswoman Gila Reinstein.
"If it's true about the bones, that's disrespectful and
disturbing," she said.
John Fryar, a retired Bureau of Indian Affairs special agent in
antiquities recovery and a member of Acoma Pueblo, said if the
secret society does have remains, they should be returned to
"To ignore a request like this for the return of human remains
is totally uncalled for. Look at our guys going to Vietnam to
recover remains. It's the same thing," he said.
For more information regarding the Skull & Bones, see