The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requires federally funded institutions to return remains and cultural items.
As one of the largest collections of repatriated objects and artifacts in New York to date, the items transferred included a variety of ceremonial objects and items associated with burial. The objects include bells, pendants, pots, and turtle shell rattles dating from as early as 1600.
The objects being repatriated were purchased by Colgate in 1959 from the family of an amateur archaeologist, Herbert Bigford Sr. during excavations of eight sites between 1924 and 1957. Bigford was an active member of the Chenango Archeology Society. Most of the items came from a single site in the town of Stockbridge, Madison County, including wampum, glass and shell beads, and wolf teeth.
Colgate is located on the Oneida’s ancestral territory. The Oneida Indian Nation is headquartered in Verona, southwestern Oneida County, NY. The Oneida are an Iroquoian-speaking people, one of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, or Haudenosaunee. Three other federally recognized Oneida tribes live in places they migrated or were removed to during and after the American Revolution: one in Wisconsin, and two in Ontario.
The ceremony is part of a series of repatriations that began in 1995 with the return of remains of seven Oneida skeletons and eight associated funerary objects. Additional repatriations are expected in the future as Colgate University and the Oneida Indian Nation continue to identify sacred and significant objects of the Oneida people within the University’s collections.
Photo: A 17th century Oneida Indian Nation ceramic pot, recently retruned to the Oneida people, provided.