He may not have been Native American, but Martin Sullivan saw to the return of 12 sacred wampum belts to the Onondaga Indian Nation before it was required by law to do so. It was 1989 and he was the director of the New York State Museum in Albany, New York.
Sullivan passed away in his home February 25 in Piney Point, Maryland of kidney failure. He was 70. But it’s important to remember what he started with returning the sacred wampum.
It was a controversial agreement at a time when other museum executives were hesitant to confront the issue, Carole Huxley, the state’s deputy commissioner for cultural education at the time, told the Times Union.
“It was a very big deal, and it’s a law now. Not (just) here, but across the country,” Huxley, who first worked with Sullivan at the National Endowment for the Humanities, told the paper. “People in other museums didn’t want to have to think about it. Do we own these things? Did we not take them away from (these) people properly?”
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which requires museums and other federal agencies to return cultural items to tribal descendants, was enacted on November 16, 1990.
The Onondaga Nation website has a piece written by Chief Irving Powless Jr. from October 21, 1989—the day the 12 belts were delivered to the nation. Powless says in his accounting of that day that 600 people came to the longhouse for the arrival of the belts.
“Looking out the longhouse window, I could see the people surrounding the vans. The first of the 12 belts began its journey back into the longhouse. Each belt was covered in a case wrapped inside of white foam sheet. It was impossible to tell what belt it was,” Powless writes. “The wrappings were removed and the first belt was the Tadadaho belt. Soon all the belts were in view and everyone pressed forward for a better view.”
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Robert J. Conley was a giant of the Native literary world whose 80-plus books gave us an authentic, lively rendering of Cherokee experience. Conley’s realm was one of irreverence and wit, and he will rightly take his place among the Cherokee literary elite.
When Conley left this world on February 16, he had just been awarded the 2014 Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award, the highest honor bestowed by Western Writers of America, was to be presented during the organization’s annual convention in Sacramento in June. But Western Writers of America Executive Director Candy Moulton managed to give the prize to Conley personally.
“I went to North Carolina and presented it to him in a small ceremony that included the Dean of Western Carolina University, the head of the Cherokee Studies Department, and his wife Evelyn,” Moulton noted on the group’s website. “He was pleased and appreciative.”
Conley’s passing was mourned from the leadership offices of the Cherokee Nation, to the halls of Western Carolina University, where he last taught.
“Today, we mourn the passing of one of the great stewards of our Cherokee history and culture, Robert J. Conley. Robert was the author of more than 80 books, short stories and poems, vividly telling the tales of our most famous, and infamous, figures in Cherokee history,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker on February 17.
“His literary works were world renowned, and he garnered equal respect from both critics and readers,” Baker said. “While Robert will be dearly missed, we should be comforted in the fact that his legacy will live on in the wide body of work he left behind for all Cherokees to enjoy for generations to come.”
For centuries Cherokees were subject to the writings of people like Hernando DeSoto and Henry Timberlake, who were more interested in portraying Cherokees as exotic savages in a travelogue than as humans in their own right. Others, such as James Mooney, wrote about Cherokees as ethnographic curiosities. But that would change.
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When four members of the Parrish family didn’t show up for church or Sunday dinner, other family members became worried. Bill and Ross Parrish, and their sons, 14-year-old Keegan and 12-year-old Liam, were found deceased in their home in Pocatello, Idaho by family members later in the evening on Sunday, February 23.
The Idaho State Journal reports that the family had no carbon monoxide detector in their home. Investigators are looking at a number of possibilities including a natural gas pipeline, a water heater, furnace or stove that may have malfunctioned in the family’s home.
“There is evidence that they knew that they were sick,” Bannock County Coroner Kim Quick told the Journal. “They just didn’t know what they were sick from.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning every year. “The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion,” says the CDC website.
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“If we have African blood we should be proud of it; it is good, honest, tribal ancestry.” —Jack D. Forbes, Attan-Akamik Newsletter, 1974
“The Future of Minority Studies Conference” held February 24 – 27, 2011, at the College of William and Mary brought together a diverse group of academics from across many disciplines to explore the theme “Subjugated Histories/Decolonizing Practices.” Its aim was to challenge “the hegemony of Western Knowledge/power systems… and to explore epistemic decolonization.” This would relocate the study of marginalized communities, “from margin to center,” to use the words of Afro-Indian cultural critic bell hooks.
I returned home from that exhilarating conference to learn that my mentor and friend Jack D. Forbes, Professor Emeritus of Native American Studies at the University of California Davis, had walked on a day prior to the conference on February 23, 2011. Forbes, who was of Powhatan-Renape/Delaware-Lenape descent, worked tirelessly as a renowned author, activist, and academic to uncover the subjugated histories of marginalized peoples by embracing the “bottom up” approach to American history also embraced by many late twentieth century academics.
At the time of his death, many paid tribute to Forbes and his illustrious academic career, which spanned over five decades. Such tributes were primarily focused on his contributions to the field of Native American Studies. Yet, Forbes’s contributions extended far beyond this discipline. His commitment to interdisciplinarity, which incorporated best practices from the disciplines of history, anthropology, linguistics, sociology, and literature enabled him to transverse disciplinary boundaries with ease. His passion for examining the nuances and complexities of the early European and later the American racial project broadened his research interest beyond Native American Studies to include Latin American Studies and African American Studies. Regarding the latter, Forbes’s contribution to African American scholarship went unmentioned by those memorializing an illustrious life now gone; we must correct this gross oversight. Hence, on this third anniversary of his passing and in commemoration of African American Heritage Month, I believe it is fitting that we pause and pay tribute to the legacy of Jack D. Forbes whose life work celebrated the confluence of African and Native peoples of the Americas.
After completing a doctorate in History and Anthropology at the University of Southern California in 1959, Forbes went on to help establish the Native American Studies Program at the University of California Davis and other universities. His 1966 publication An American Indian University: A Proposal for Survival helped to build the momentum of the tribal college movement and gave rise to D-Q University in 1972, the first American Indian college in California and the second tribal college in the nation. As a result of Forbes’s unyielding commitment to indigenizing the academy, today there are approximately 35 tribal colleges, which are responsible for the enrollment of at least one-third of the post-secondary American Indian population in addition to numerous Native American Studies departments and programs nationwide.
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Shirley Temple danced into the hearts of America with her charming smile and adorable dimples in the 1930s reaching the kind of childhood stardom no other has attained since. She walked on at her home in Woodside, California at the age of 85 on Monday night.
From 1935 to 1939 she was the most popular movie star in America—the handsome Clark Gable was a distant second, she was photographed more than President Franklin D. Roosevelt and received more mail than Greta Garbo, reports the New York Times. She even has a drink named after her—the sweet concoction of lemon-lime soda and grenadine topped with a cherry created by the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood.
She started acting at age 3, won an Academy Award at the age of 6 and earned $3 million before reaching puberty. Her first major movie was in 1932 when she appeared in “War Babies,” part of the “Baby Burlesks” series of short films. But when public interest waned as she grew up, she didn’t let that discourage her.
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Arizona tribes were saddened this weekend as news came that Arthur J. Hubbard Sr., walked on February 7 at 102 years old.... Read more
Robert Charles Onco, a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and an American Indian Movement activist, passed into the spirit world on January 31 after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 63 years old.
Bobby Onco, as he was known, was immortalized in a photo that became a symbol the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee. The photo shows Onco holding a raised AK-47 and smiling broadly. It became famous worldwide as a poster with the words “Remember Wounded Knee” and is archived in the Library of Congress.
The uprising at Wounded Knee—the site of the 1890 massacre of hundreds of men, women and children by the U.S. cavalry—began on February 27, 1973, by Oglala Lakota and AIM activists when approximately 200 Indians seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The activists were demanding that the U.S. government make good on broken treaties from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the beginning of a 71-day occupation and armed conflict with the United States Marshals Service, FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies, who cordoned off the area. The civil rights direct action inspired Indians from all over the country, attracted worldwide media coverage and widespread public sympathy.
Dennis Banks, one of the leaders of the occupation, recalled Onco’s weapon and the relative military strength of the AIM members and the federal government in Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement. “One of our men, Bobby Onco… had a AK-47 with a banana clip a souvenir from Vietnam. I don’t think he had any ammo for it; he used it to impress the media and the marshals,” Banks wrote. “Later during the siege we set up a stovepipe, which caused a panic among the feds. ‘Oh my God! Those Indians have a rocket launcher!’ We certainly didn’t have any rockets and almost no ammunition… It was a puny force that faced the mightiest government in the world with its huge arsenal of weapons!”
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Pete Seeger has walked on from natural causes at the age of 94 near his home in Beacon, New York, leaving behind a world immeasurably better for his time in it.... Read more
The Yurok Tribe is grieving the untimely passing of Yurok elder and tribal council member Bonnie Green. ... Read more
She had been attending the Democratic National Convention since she was just 2 months old and watched from her cradle board, reported the ... Read more
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