Harvard to repatriate civil rights chief Standing Bear’s tomahawk to Nebraska tribe-Artwork-and-culture Information , Firstpost

Larry Wright, Jr., chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, said Tuesday the return of the historic weapon is a powerful homecoming symbol for the tribe.

A tomahawk that once belonged to the Chief Standing Bear. Harvard Crimson via AP

Boston: A tomahawk, once owned by Chief Standing Bear, a pioneering Native American civil rights activist, returns to its Nebraska tribe after decades in a Harvard museum.

The university’s Peabody Museum of Archeology & Ethnology says it worked with members of the Ponca tribe in Nebraska and Oklahoma to repatriate the artifact.

Larry Wright, Jr., chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, said Tuesday the return of the historic weapon is a powerful homecoming symbol for the 19th century tribe.

“This is a piece of our history that represents who we are and why we are here in Nebraska, so it is very appropriate that we should be back home,” he said. “It tells this story and never lets us forget what our people went through.”

Standing Bear was arrested in 1878 for leaving the tribe’s Oklahoma reservation to fulfill his promise to bury his eldest son in his tribe’s home in the Niobrara River Valley, Nebraska. In his landmark federal trial, he successfully campaigned for Native American people to be recognized as entitled to rights and legal protection.

“This hand is not your color. But if you pierce it, I’ll be in pain, ”Standing Bear said in court. “The blood that flows out of mine will be the same color as yours. I’m a man. The same God created us both. “

There’s no set schedule for the tomahawk’s return home, but Wright and other leaders of the Ponca tribe are due to travel to Harvard in September, according to Jane Pickering, the museum’s director.

The tribe delegation will tour the tomahawk as well as other items related to the standing bear, including a pearl necklace, quill moccasins and a pipe bowl, she said.

In the meantime, Wright said, the Nebraska tribe are preparing their own museum, located near the grave of the Standing Bear, to properly display the artifacts.

He also praised Brett Chapman, an Oklahoma attorney and descendant of Standing Bear, for his efforts to raise awareness of the tomahawk and the importance of its return.

“This inheritance belonged to the Ponca then, it is ours now and afterwards it will be ours forever,” Chapman said on Monday.

The Tomahawk has changed hands several times over the decades.

Standing Bear, who died in 1908, originally loaned the tomahawk to John Lee Webster, one of his lawyers in his landmark case, but the heirloom was sold to a private collector when Webster died, according to Chapman.

Harvard acquired it in 1982 when it was donated from the estate of William Henry Claflin Jr., a resident of Belmont, Massachusetts, who bought it in 1930 from the widow of William Morris, an Omaha attorney, the museum said. It is unclear how Morris came into possession of the tomahawk.

The tomahawk debate comes after Harvard was criticized for its repatriation efforts.

The Association on American Indian Affairs said in February that in violation of federal law, the university does not always consult with the tribes about cultural items that might be returned to them.

It also comes because Standing Bear is enjoying some kind of revival.

A bronze statue of his likeness clutching his tomahawk was placed in the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol in 2019. Similar statues have recently been erected in Lincoln, capital of Nebraska, as well as in the headquarters of the Ponca tribe in Niobrara.

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