Painted crossed all day. It was great being outside with the nice weather. I love having the ability to do cemetery maintenance. It give my mind a break from all the NAGRPA work and I get to enjoy the outdoors. Our tribe’s pow wow is this week end, so everybody is gearing up for that event. My boss is on the pow wow committee, so anything I was working on with her will have to wait until next week. Mainly we are planning travel for repatriations. She enjoys big cities, so she will get New York City. I prefer smaller places, but I can do the big city. The farthest from home an item from LTBB was at was in St. Louis. Two eagle feathers made their way out there during the 50s. We got those back last year and are scheduling to have some contamination testing done on them. Items such as leather, wood, feathers are more likely to have been treated with some toxic chemical to preserve them. Once we get sacred items back, there is more work to be done before we can introduce them into the community.
But you never know where things from your community will end up. We had a real active collector during the early 1900s in Northern Michigan, Albert Green Heath. This guy collected thousands of items from dozens of tribes. I have almost made a career of tracking down what this guy collected, where it went and getting some stuff back. I’ve learned some interesting things, like what families were selling grave items to Heath. Some of these families are still in Emmet County, living next to burial areas. Sadly it makes sense they would loot graves and sell the items. All of this was occurring when Indian kids were being sent off to boarding schools, it was illegal for Indians to practice their beliefs. I think the latter has a part to play in so many items being bought up by collectors. I can imagine some person like Heath saying “If it’s illegal to practice your religion, why keep the items?” Plus the depression didn’t help. I hear stories about other Indian communities who loose items, the people breaking down and crying, weeping uncontrollably as the sacred objects are taken. I can’t imagine the decision for a parent, who’s kids are starving, no work and having this guy offer you a good amount of money for your sacred items. These thoughts are always in the back of my head, and it makes me angry. But I can’t go back in time and change things. I can only try and get some of what is ours back.