In Control of Museum for 115 Years, 41 Ancestral Remains Given Returned Home and Given Proper Reburial

Reburial Ceremony on Isabelle Inidan Reservation in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Native News Online photos by Levi Rickert

Reburial Ceremony on Isabelle Inidan Reservation in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Native News Online photos by Levi Rickert

ISABELLA INDIAN RESERVATION — Among the sound of chirping birds, an occasional sound of a barking dog, traffic in the distance and under a brilliant blue Michigan spring sky on about five dozen tribal citizens of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, other American Indians and guests gathered this past Friday to grant a proper burial to 43 ancestral human American Indian remains

For the vast majority of those reburied on Friday it has been a long journey to have a proper humane burial, because 41 of the remains have been out of the earth for over 115 years. The 41 human remains have been in control of the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City since 1901.
Attendees were given cedar as they exited

Attendees were given cedar as they exited

A eagles staff was posted above the mass grave where the remains were buried at the Nibokann Ancestral Cemetery on the Isabella Indian Reservation. A traditional ceremony was performed by Brian Corbiere, an elder from McChiing First Nation in Ontario, Canada. Cedar, sage, tobacco and sweetgrass, the four sacred medicines, were offered on behalf of those reburied.

Friday’s service was the work of the Ziibiwing Cultural Society on behalf of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, and in cooperation with the Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation & Repatriation Alliance (MACPRA), to bring home ancestors and their associated funerary objects from the numerous museums, universities and institutions across the country since the passage of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

On February 4, 2015, the American Museum of Natural History, based in New York City, posted a Notice of Inventory Completion in the Federal Register. The Notice described how during the unknown years during the late 1800s, Harlan I. Smith collected the American Indian human remains from burial grounds and mound features throughout Bay and Saginaw Counties in Michigan.

The Ziibwing Center is an award-winnng cultural center, operated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. Shannon Martin (Potawatomi/Ojibwea) serves as director of the Ziibiwing Center.

The Ziibwing Center is an award-winnng cultural center, operated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. Shannon Martin (Potawatomi/Ojibwea) serves as director of the Ziibiwing Center.

All 41 individuals that Smith collected were gifted to the American Museum of Natural History in 1901. No known individuals were identified. No associated funerary objects were notated or gifted to the American Museum of Natural History. No additional lineal descendants or representatives of any Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian Organization have come forward to request transfer of control.

According to final judgments of the Indian Claims Commission, the land from which the Native American human remains were removed is the aboriginal land of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

Two other remains were reburied at Friday’s ceremony. One was received from the Toledo Zoological Society; one was received from the Dearborn Historical Museum.

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