- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

HARTFORD, Conn. | Geronimo’s descendants have sued Skull and Bones - the secret society at Yale University linked to presidents and other powerful figures - claiming that its members stole the remains of the legendary Apache leader decades ago and have kept them ever since.

The federal lawsuit filed in Washington on Tuesday - the 100th anniversary of Geronimo’s death - also names the university and the federal government.

Geronimo’s great-grandson Harlyn Geronimo said his family thinks Skull and Bones members took some of the remains in 1918 from a burial plot in Fort Sill, Okla., to keep in its New Haven clubhouse, a crypt. The purported graverobbing is a longstanding legend that gained some validity in recent years with the discovery of a letter from a club member that described the theft.

“I believe strongly from my heart that his spirit was never released,” the great-grandson said.

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and many others in powerful government and industry positions are members of the society, which is not affiliated with the university.

After years of famously fighting the U.S. and Mexican armies, Geronimo and 35 warriors surrendered to Gen. Nelson A. Miles near the Arizona-New Mexico state line in 1886. Geronimo was eventually sent to Fort Sill and died at the Army outpost of pneumonia in 1909.

According to lore, members of Skull and Bones, including former President George W. Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, dug up his grave when a group of Army volunteers from Yale were stationed at the fort during World War I, taking his skull and some of his bones.

Harlyn Geronimo, 61, wants those remains and any held by the federal government turned over to the family so they can be reburied near the Indian leader’s birthplace in southern New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness.

Their lawsuit also names President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Army Secretary Pete Geren as defendants.

“I want them to understand we mean business,” said Mr. Geronimo, who lives in New Mexico. “We’re very serious. We’re tired of waiting and we’re coming after them.”

Yale officials declined to comment Wednesday, saying they had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Membership into Skull and Bones marks the elite of the elite at the Ivy League school. Only 15 Yale seniors are asked to join each year.

Members swear an oath of secrecy about the group and its strange rituals, which include devotion to the number “322” and initiation rites such as confessing sexual secrets and kissing a skull. The atmosphere makes Skull and Bones favorite fodder for conspiracy theorists.

Mr. Geronimo wrote to Mr. Bush in 2006, seeking his help in recovering the bones. He thought that since the president’s grandfather was allegedly one of those who helped steal the bones, the president would want to help return them.

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