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Portion of former Teller Institute property is being sold

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 6:54 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - The property the Grand Junction Regional Center sits on is being sold. This property is also a portion of where the Teller Institute once was located.

In 1886, the Teller Institute was created in Grand Junction and it received its first group of students a year later.

After the federal government realized Indian boarding schools were unsuccessful, the Teller Institute property was transferred to the State of Colorado.

Colorado Mesa University Professor John Seebach says the sale of this property worries him because through his research he believes there are bodies buried on it.

“Out of all this research came the fact that we know at least 21 children are buried on that campus and their cemetery location was lost,” said Seebach.

The Colorado Department of Human Services created the Teller Institute Task Force to work in collaboration with tribal leaders and experts like State Archeologist Dr. Holly Norton on proper actions to take pertaining to the property.

“So, the task for the Teller Institute is really there to help guide CDHS in making decisions about how we approach this issue, how we potentially identify where buried children are and then what comes next after we’ve gathered that appropriate information,” said Dr. Norton.

Dr. Norton’s job is to gather as much information she can so the tribes and CDHS can make informed decisions on what happens to the property.

“The current footprint of the property is not the historic footprint of the property but we don’t know what that means in terms of potential burials so really what we’re doing is trying to forget about the assumptions people have been making over the last few years about what might exist or might not exist and really I’m starting from ground zero,” said Dr. Norton.

We’re told one thing to keep in mind is the tribes do have a voice in this process and its the most important one.

“This is a really important issue to them,” said Dr. Norton. “This is very sensitive. I think we always have to remember to center the fact that these were real children with families who still grieve for them today.”

Right now, there are still families living on the property the Grand Junction Regional Center sits on. Nothing can be done with the property until the families are moved off.

However, CDHS said it is fully committed to investigating whether an unmarked gravesite is located on the land the regional center occupies.

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