Clinton-Indian summit

Tue, 17 May 1994 09:18:09 -0500

Mailing List: NATIVE-L (

Native American Indian convictions and those of anthropologists
collided at the recent Governor's Native American Council meeting
May 9, 1994. A number of the state's leading archeologists: Rick
Jones, state archeologist, Mark Schurr, Notre Dame, and Cheryl
Munson, Society for the Preservation of Indian Archeology, stated
their case before the Council concerning the artifacts and remains
found at the G.E. Mount Vernon site. The objects have been a source
of controversy since their discovery in 1988.

Archeologists are concerned with the proposition to rebury all
artifacts. According to Rick Jones, the site is unique and the
material is a record of public history. He feels it is necessary
that the objects be kept for long term study and that reburying
the artifacts is akin to "destroying old and rare documents."
He also believes there is no traceable cultural continuity with
modern day Native American Indian cultures. Mark Schurr was
concerned that an insufficient amount of time had been devoted
to the study of objects and also expressed concern over the
credentials of the archeologists involved in the G.E. study.
Names have been withheld by G.E. and Schurr is not certain the
archeologists involved are truly Hopewellian scholars. Schurr
stated that no one group should have "exclusive" rights over the

Cheryl Munson of the Society for Preservation of Indiana Archeology
stated that the original intent for the G.E. artifacts was donation
to a museum for public education and benefit. She was strongly
opposed to reburial and asked that all items, including human remains,
be stored in a specially constructed "reburial" facility that
would be climatically controlled.

Larry Mackey, U.S. Attorney's Office and prosecutor in the Art Gerber
case, voiced his concern that reburial of the objects would result
in them again falling prey to looters. A professor of Archeology
at Kent State, Ohio, maintained that it was "simplistic" to list
the G.E. site as a cemetery because the remains of less than eight
individuals had been identified. In addition, he felt that the
N.A.G.P.R.A. restrictions did not apply since the discovery of the
G.E. site predated its enactment.

Speaking first for the Native American viewpoint was LeRoy Malaterre,
chairman of the American Indian Council, Inc. He stated that the
government and scientists have continually wanted to study Native
American Indians, but not listen to them. "Today you have heard
imressive statements by both legal and professional people. The
people at G.E. are trying to do the right thing. Our legends say
that in the beginning we all came from one people. If I were one
of the descendents of these people, I would be out there leading
the movement for reburial. We must set an example for our children.
They may take care of us one day. The newspapers say the public
will lose if the items are reburied. All people will gain if we
do the right thing. My words will be forgotten, but what we do will
be remembered for years and even eternity. Let's do the right thing!"

Chairman of the Native American Council, Tom Montezuma, said G.E.
was in possession of seventy-eight letters from various tribal
entities supporting reburial.

Gun Hollingsworth, Mohican, remarked,"If a white man digs up a red
man's bones, you give him a Phd. If a red man digs up a white man's
bones, you give him twenty years."

Ken Irwin of the Ohio Right to Burial Movement questioned who would
benefit from further study of the artifacts. A spokesperson for
AIM of Illinois Repatriation Committee claimed that the entire issue
is based upon respect. There is a disparity between European
and Native American Indian thought. "One is based upon observation,
study, and control and the other upon sharing, understanding, and

Don Strack, Miami, stated, "I speak selfishly from within my heart.
No one has a right to study remains."

Sally Tuttle of the Indiana American Indian Manpower Council, Choctaw,
said, "We talk about respect and teach our children respect. You
can't have respect for the living if you don't have respect for the
dead. We've been studied for five hundred years. It's time to let
our ancestors rest."

Carlos Alvarez, Lakota, spoke of how the true people have always been
here. "Our ways are still good ways. We have not stopped learning
and teaching. We need to be replaced in the womb of our mother when
we walk the spirit walk. The objects should be there too."

Greywolf of the Indiana Indian Movement said, "We were the first
human beings here. We did not treat you as objects when you came.
Native Americans have never benefited from studies--only colleges
with grants to study have benefited. We are talking about morality,
honor, and respect to the dead."

AIM spokesperson, Chico Dulak, stated, "All immigrants came to steal
from us. Archeologists try to steal from us. Do we have to go
into the twenty-first century defending ourselves from thieves?
Grave diggers versus archeologists. To me, it is just one thief
stealing fromn another. Give our ancestors to us. We will place
them where they can't be found."

Greg Ballew, Potawatomi, felt that probable descendents like the Miami
and Shawnee should be consulted, but all remains should be returned
to mother earth.

In concluding remarks, John Hornbrook, Choctaw, related that, "In
1540 the first Choctaw was dug up by DeSoto." This set a precedent
that continues to this day. "Let our people go--from Black Laboratories
at Indiana University and the Smithsonian."

Without dissenting voice, the people spoke for reburial of the
ancestors remains and grave goods. This issue unites the Native
American Indian comunity as none other, and will continue to do so
in future months and years as our leaders seek the repatriation of
ancestral remains.


A hawk circled slowly in a gray sky. Gentle morning breezes playfully
toyed with variegated, fringed shawls and song birds chatted cheerily
with one another from limb to leafy limb. Wisps of smoke curled
upward from a sage smudge and blended with the fresh scent of morning.
A drum echoed slowly across the meadow and voices lifted together in
song. One hundred people from twenty-four Indian nations gathered on
the morning of May 15, 1994 at the G.E. Mount Vernon plant site to
act upon strong conviction that the ancestors should be returned to
mother earth.

Quietly, elders, adults, and children began the half mile walk to
the reburial site. Midway, the procession stopped. The drum sang.
One lone bird sat deliberately on the gravel pathway just to the west
of the walkers. He spoke to us. He continued to speak as the drum
sang. He never wavered from his spot, intent on delivering his
complete message. When the procession continued, he sat, keeping
his vigil until all passed by.

In a sacred manner, the religious leaders proceeded to return the
ancestors to the womb of mother earth. The objects, valued by the
people in life, were returned as well. Several women stepped
forward to offer their shawls to cover. The people were asked
to individually place some of the objects in the grave, just as
in former times family and friends would offer personally valued
items for the spirit walk. Generation to generation, the people
shall continue. Offerings of tobacco and sage. Good thoughts.
We did the right thing.

---A few personal responses to the day:

It is good to see this come to fruition. It has been a battle all
the way. It is a good conclusion.
--Corey Bates

It was very spiritual to participate with all the other nations.
Our ancestors are finally getting the respect they deserve.

--Marcella VanStone

Today tears down barriers between the Indian nations. We feel one
spirit combined. I thought of my father and how he did'nt have a
proper burial. I personalized the moment.

--Sharon McClernon

Everyone was bonding together--a great spirit of coming together for
one cause.
--Rebecca Pharr

Thanks to all who gave their support.

--Tom Montezuma

There is a network of Native American people in this area that work
together for understanding. I have just one lung, lost the other
to cancer. When I ran out of breath while placing the burial artifacts,
others came in to help. The cooperation was great!"

--Dr. Jim Gillihan
-carrier of the pipe of
Tatanka Iotanke since 1978-

As they once were, we are. As they are, we will be and hope there
will be those to care for us when we are gone. From Uniontown to
Clarksville to Dickson Mounds, we have been making small steps in
the right direction. Slowly, others are coming around to understand
that our dead are sacred. Someday, the digging of graves may be
like the California Condor-nearly extinct.

--Chico Dulak

Once many remains of Arikara and Lakota were sent to Standing Rock in
numbered boxes. The ancestors were wrapped for burial and someone
asked, "Which are Arikara and which are Lakota?" No one knew. Once
they were out of the numbered boxes, all were the same. Arikara and
Lakota were one of the first to do a "making relative" ceremony. They
were all our ancestors. Just so are these ancestors we reburied
today. They are the ancestors of us all whether Chippewa, Miami,
Lakota. . .even non-Indian. We must show respect for our ancestors
and teach our children to do the same when we are gone.

--George Ironshield

We did the right thing.

Mitakuye Oyasin