Colgate University is returning to the Indian nation Oneida more than 1,500 objects once buried with ancestral remains: a collection of culturally significant items that includes trinkets, pots, bells and turtle rattles, some dating back 400 years.
The “funerary objects” were purchased in 1959 by the family of an amateur archaeologist who collected them from sites in upstate New York and have been housed at the university’s Longyear Museum of Anthropology. Their repatriation ceremony will take place on Wednesday in Colgate, which is located in the ancestral territory of Oneida.
“He’s making things right. He is correcting a wrong, “Indian Nation Representative Oneida Ray Halbritter said in an interview.” The acquisition of these objects is a rather indefensible practice. They have been absent. They are not where they should be … on the mainland with the our people “.
Halbritter said this is one of the largest single repatriations in the state and praised Colgate’s cooperation, which initiated a series of relocations in 1995 with the return of seven sets of remains and grave goods.
The 1,520 items returned are called funerary items because they are reasonably believed to have been placed with individual human remains at the time of death or later.
Items returned to the Oneidas also include glass beads, pottery, knives, harpoons, and a stone pipe. They were collected by Herbert Bigford Sr. during excavations of eight sites between 1924 and 1957, according to Colgate’s repatriation documents filed with the federal government.
A man of that name was the treasurer in 1952 for the local Chenango Archeology Society, whose members took “excavation trips” every summer and met at their respective homes for Native American archeology programs, according to a Sunday Press article by. Binghamton on the company’s plans for school presentations.
Some of the repatriated objects date back to the 1600s. And more than 900 of the objects came from a single excavation site in Stockbridge, south of the present Oneida Reservation in central New York. That includes 286 Wampum, 106 shell beads, 179 glass beads, and 68 wolf teeth, according to records.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requires federally funded institutions, such as universities, to return cultural remains and items.
Nationwide, some 870,000 Native American artifacts – including nearly 110,000 human remains – that are expected to be returned to tribes under federal law are still in the possession of colleges, museums, and other institutions, according to a recent Associated Press review of the data held. from the National Park Service.
Colgate officials said the ongoing repatriations involving the university are a step towards restoring relations with Native American communities.
“This is important work and will continue until we are confident that all sacred items that can be returned to their rightful owners will be returned,” Colgate President Brian W. Casey said in a statement.
Some of the items returned from Colgate had been displayed or used for teaching in the past, although the university has placed restrictions on their use for such purposes since 1994.
The Oneida representative, Colgate and the museum will attend the university repatriation ceremony on Wednesday.
The items will be kept safe while the Oneidas decide what to do with them, whether they return them to earth or some other option, Halbritter said.
“Our ceremonies to repatriate these objects will help ensure that our story will be told in our own voices,” said Halbritter, “and for generations to come.”
AP researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed.