FORT SILL Okla_ Some Comanche Nation members are fighting for their right to properly mourn their ancestors, who are buried in a now-hidden grave site on Fort Sill.
The Fort Sill Indian Agency Cemetery is located underneath Fort Sill's Henry Post Airfield. The cemetery was built around 1870, but the government annexed the land in 1917. Since then, the grave markers have been removed and the plots covered in soil. Relatives of the buried say they want justice for their ancestors.
There are over 100 known grave sites, but less than 70 have been identified. To make matters worse, the plots are completely covered. So, many people who have relatives buried there do not know exactly where they are. Now, this dispute has been going on for decades, but the man who's been fighting it for the last five years said he is very clear about what his people want.
"We want unfettered access to that cemetery," Tribal Member Wahnee Clark said. "We want the graves uncovered, and we want markers put in place there. We think that's the very least they could do. If this were a Caucasian cemetery or a cemetery of military people, it would have been taken care of long, long time ago."
The remains of Wahnee Clark's aunt and uncle are buried underneath this air field: one of many in a vast unmarked grave site. Clark said a few years ago, he and his wife decided enough was enough.
"We took eight to ten inches of soil off the top of my uncle and aunt's grave," Clark said. "Shortly thereafter, we got a letter from Fort Sill saying we were subject to a $10,000 fine and one year in jail for disturbing an archeological site."
Clark said he responded with a scathing letter to Fort Sill, who later issued an apology over the letter. He said his mission to resurrect the cemetery has been filled with false hope.
"We went through what they called Phase One and Phase Two of a consultation with Fort Sill," Clark said. "The result of that is we were going to get all that we wanted from what we called a list of ten. When we got through with that, General Halverson said he wanted to get it done."
That never happened, but Clark said he'll keep fighting. The Fort Sill Indian Agency Cemetery's website quotes Benjamin Franklin. It reads "Show me your cemetery, and I will tell you what type of people you are." Clark said this powerful quote is an expression of why this almost-forgotten grave is so important to his people.
"If you take care of the remembrance of your departed, that shows you have character," Clark said. "That character is exhibited in how you take care of the cemeteries. I think Fort Sill has let us down on this cemetery. "
7News has contacted Fort Sill to find out what they have been doing to resolve this issue since Halverson left command. The post was unable to offer an official comment, because the person who could answer that question was not available due to the Memorial Day holiday. They said they would try to get us an answer later this week.