February 19, 2009
On Feb. 17, the 100-year anniversary of Apache warrior Geronimo’s death, his descendants filed a suit in Washington. According to the Washington Post, the defendants are “President Obama, the secretaries of defense and the Army, Yale University and the Order of Skull and Bones” - and, presumably, the Russell Trust Association as well.
Geronimo v. Obama, 09-cv-303, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, seeks to “[t]o ensure that all existing remains of Geronimo and funerary objects are recovered by Geronimo’s lineal descendants, the Order of Skull & Bones at Yale University must account for any such articles that are or have been in their possession,” Bloomberg reported.
It concerns the 1918 grave robbery, by four Skull and Bones members: Prescott Bush 1917, Charles C. Haffner ‘19, Henry Neil Mallon ‘17, and Ellery James ‘17.
In the 1980’s an Apache leader, Ned Anderson, was making inquiries into the remains of Geronimo, buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, when he received a document from an anonymous Skull and Bones member. The informant said that “in May of 1918, Prescott Bush and five other officers at Fort Sill desecrated the grave of Geronimo. They took turns watching while they robbed the grave, taking items including a skull, some other bones, a horse bit and straps. These prizes were taken back to the Tomb, the home of the Skull and Bones Society at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. They were put into a display case, which members and visitors could easily view upon entry to the building.”
Here’s an excerpt from the document, titled Continuation of the History of Our Order for the Century Celebration, 17 June 1933, by The Little Devil of D’121:
From the war days [W.W. I] also sprang the mad expedition from the School of Fire at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, that brought to the T[omb] its most spectacular “crook,” the skull of Geronimo the terrible, the Indian Chief who had taken forty-nine white scalps. An expedition in late May, 1918, by members of four Clubs [i.e. four graduating-class years of the Society], Xit D.114, Barebones, Caliban and Dingbat, D.115, S’Mike D.116, and Hellbender D.117, planned with great caution since in the words of one of them: “Six army captains robbing a grave wouldn’t look good in the papers.” The stirring climax was recorded by Hellbender in the Black Book of D.117: “… The ring of pick on stone and thud of earth on earth alone disturbs the peace of the prairie. An axe pried open the iron door of the tomb, and Pat[riarch] Bush entered and started to dig. We dug in turn, each on relief taking a turn on the road as guards…. Finally Pat[riarch] Ellery James turned up a bridle, soon a saddle horn and rotten leathers followed, then wood and then, at the exact bottom of the small round hole, Pat[riarch] James dug deep and pried out the trophy itself…. We quickly closed the grave, shut the door and sped home to Pat[riarch] Mallon’s room, where we cleaned the Bones. Pat[riarch] Mallon sat on the floor liberally applying carbolic acid. The Skull was fairly clean, having only some flesh inside and a little hair. I showered and hit the hay … a happy man….”