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Friday, April 28, 2023

On Sacred Ground (2023) #NoDAPL


On Sacred Ground (2023)

Indigenous Studies Discussion Group, University of Cambridge, Cambridge/UK

May 3, 2023 / 18:00 h BST (UTC +1) /19:00h CEST


Dear All,

We would like to invite you to the film screen of ‘On Sacred Ground’ (2023) at 18:00 on next Wednesday May 3rd in Room SG2, Alison Richard Building. The film is based on the true events during the 2016 construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The film follows Daniel (William Mapother), a journalist and military veteran, and Elliot (David Arquette), an oil company executive, who find themselves on opposite sides of the fight during the construction of the contentious pipeline. As the story unfolds, the two characters go down separate paths during one of the most heated protests and confrontation with Native American tribes in modern US history. You can watch film trailer here: We look forward to seeing many of you there!

The screening will be hybrid, and please register here if you’d like to join online:

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Repatriation Project

The Repatriation Project

A series investigating the return of Native American ancestral remains.

View the Full Series


Is the Metropolitan Museum of Art Displaying Objects That Belong to Native American Tribes?

by Kathleen Sharp for ProPublica

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Series: The Repatriation Project

The Delayed Return of Native Remains

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

Stepping into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Shyanne Beatty was eager to view the Native American works that art collectors Charles and Valerie Diker had been accumulating for nearly half a century. But as she entered the museum’s American Wing that day in 2018, her excitement turned to shock as two wooden masks came into view.

Beatty, an Alaska Native, had worked on a radio documentary about the two Alutiiq objects and how they and others like them had been plundered from tribal land about 150 years ago. Now, the masks were on display in the biggest and most esteemed art museum in the Western Hemisphere. “It was super shocking to me,” she said.

The Met’s ownership history for the masks, also known as provenance, omits more than a century of their whereabouts. Historians say the masks were taken in 1871. But the museum’s timeline doesn’t start until 2003, when the Dikers bought them from a collector. Ownership was transferred to the Met in 2017.

The Dikers, who have amassed one of the most significant private collections of Native American works, have been donating or lending objects to the Met since 1993. In 2017, as other institutions grappled with returning colonial-era spoils, the Met announced the Dikers’ gift of another 91 Native American works.

A ProPublica review of records the museum has posted online found that only 15% of the 139 works donated or loaned by the Dikers over the years have solid or complete ownership histories, with some lacking any provenance at all. Most either have no histories listed, leave gaps in ownership ranging from 200 to 2,000 years or identify previous owners in such vague terms as an “English gentleman” and “a family in Scotland.”

Experts say a lack of documented histories is a red flag that objects could have been stolen or may be fake.

“That’s a lot of missing documentation, which is a problem,” said Kelley Hays-Gilpin, a curator at the Museum of Northern Arizona. The Arizona museum has documented about 80% of its collection, as has the Brooklyn Museum and other institutions that are considered less prestigious than the Met but that have substantial Native American collections. Some museums, such as one at the University of Denver, decline gifts that have poor provenance.

For centuries, Native Americans have decried the looting of the graves of their ancestors by pothunters and scientists and the display of their remains and belongings in museums. In 1990, Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to facilitate the return of such items and human remains to the appropriate tribes, which the law declares are their rightful owners.

NAGPRA requires federally funded museums to notify a tribe within six months of receiving their holdings by contacting and consulting with that tribe’s chosen representative, often known as a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, and giving them an opportunity to reclaim their objects. The law also mandates that museums file a copy of those notices with the National Park Service.

These interactions provide an opportunity for institutions to learn more about the history of objects, whether they are authentic or might have been stolen and if it’s appropriate to display them. But as ProPublica has reported this year, museums have often delayed such discussions while keeping human remains and objects that the law says should be returned.

Some pieces in the Diker Collection are sacred, such as a shaman’s rattle made of human or horse hair; some are funereal and were buried with the dead. (The Met recently returned the rattle to the Dikers, and there are “ongoing consultations” related to some other items, according to the museum.)

“Most of these items could only have ended up in private hands through trafficking and looting,” said Shannon O’Loughlin, director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, which advocates for tribal sovereignty and the protection of Native American cultures.

“The way that so many of these things wound up in museums is horrible,” said Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage and a Tlingit citizen. New York law goes by the principle of once stolen, always stolen, and she said the pieces are tainted. “The rightful thing is for these things to be returned home.”

Initially, many of the objects were loans; due to a loophole in NAGPRA, this meant the museum did not have to report them to tribes or to the NPS. To date, the museum has accepted the transfer of 77 of the promised gifts from the Diker Collection, according to the Met.

But ProPublica found that after assuming ownership the Met for years failed to consult the necessary tribal officials in a timely and consistent manner about objects in its collections. A year passed before the museum contacted someone at the Alutiiq tribe to inform them that it had their masks. (The Met declined to name the person it contacted.) Four years later, the NPS posted summaries that the Met had sent in September 2022 to 63 tribes connected to objects in the Diker Collection. The Met did so after ProPublica asked the museum about the masks and other sacred and culturally sensitive items.

All the while, the museum displayed some items with incorrect descriptions and omitted or minimized the wars, occupations, massacres and exploitation that dominated the tribes’ past.

The Met’s descriptions in its displays “are in the land of make-believe,” said Wendy Teeter, the former curator at the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The public won’t have a clue as to what a piece really is or how it got there.” This, Teeter said, “perpetuates stereotypes and bias against Native people.”

Monday, April 24, 2023

Petitioning the Court to Open Your Adoption File (for adoptees adopted in the United States) | Old Papers and the NARA

2023: The states of Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut,Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana,Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont (July 1, 2023) are the only U.S. states where adult adoptees have unrestricted access to their own original birth records!  Check out Bastard Nation

The late Karen Vigneault always told adoptees to not be afraid of using the courts to open your adoption records.  And she used NARA, a federal program that has files on everyone. Read more below:  Trace

Petitioning the Court to Open Your Adoption File (for adoptees adopted in the United States)

Why you should consider a petition:

Petitioning the court to open your records is something every adoptee should try. Even the most restrictive states allow the sealed adoption file to be open via court order, and petitioning the court is usually not a difficult nor terribly expensive proposition, and your odds are slightly better than winning the lottery.

As is detailed in my search series article, "Documents", the court file contains a variety of documents related to one's adoption, often including the original birth certificate. The most likely occurrence is that when petitioned, the judge will instruct that only non- or de-identified information be compiled from the file and given to you, but in a few instances, judges have been known to open the entire file. A very few judges will open files to every adoptee who asks, regardless of the reason. It pays to research how the particular judge you will be appearing in front of usually responds to petitions to open the file.  Local search groups often have this information, or you can post an inquiry on an email list or Usenet newsgroup, as discussed in previous parts of this Search Series.

The details of petitioning:

Petitioning the court does not require the services of a lawyer although it can help your chances of success to use one. The first step will be determining what court has your file. You probably have already obtained this information if you followed the steps detailed in the other documents of this series. The court that has your file will be the court that finalized the adoption. In the States, this is usually a county Family court, located in the county where your adoptive parents resided at the time of your adoption. Most courts will have the proper forms for petitioning available to you on request, and you do not need to be physically present at a hearing date in order for the judge to read and respond to your petition, although appearing in person can greatly enhance your chances of success. Along with the petition, you should include the reason for your request. You may simply believe the information belongs to you, and you can state this, but the sad truth is that you are more likely to be successful if there are extenuating circumstances. If you have a medical condition that could be eased with the information or with finding your birthparents, proof and explanation of that condition should be included in your petition. If there were unusual circumstances involved in your adoption, if you know your birthparents are deceased, if you already know the identity of your birthfamily, or if your adoptive parents are deceased, you should include a statement to that effect, along with proof of your claims. However, even if you do not have any unusual circumstances, and simply want the information, you should still try a petition. As stated above, some judges will release the file to adoptees just for the asking.

Using The Indian Child Welfare Act in a petition:

The Indian Child Welfare Act is little-used, but it can be the key to a successful petition to open a sealed file if you are adopted, and are some or all Native American. The ICWA was passed in 1978 to address congressional findings that "an alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions; and..... that the States, exercising their recognized jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings through administrative and judicial bodies, have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families."

One section of the ICWA is of particular interest to adoptees. Section 1951b states "Upon the request of the adopted Indian child over the age of eighteen, the adoptive or foster parents of an Indian child, or an Indian tribe, the Secretary shall disclose such information as may be necessary for the enrollment of an Indian child in the tribe in which the child may be eligible for enrollment or for determining any rights or benefits associated with that membership. Where the documents relating to such child contain an affidavit from the biological parent or parents requesting anonymity, the Secretary shall certify to the Indian child's tribe, where the information warrants, that the child's parentage and other circumstances of birth entitle the child to enrollment under the criteria established by such tribe."

Essentially this section directs the State to give adult adoptees of Native American heritage who request it, their birth information, so that they may enroll in their tribes. The section does allow for birthparents to file a veto, but even then the adoptee is entitled to tribal notification so that they may process their tribal rights and privileges. You can read the entire ICWA on the Web.

There are a few problem areas with using the ICWA. Many adoptees are of enough Native American blood to qualify for enrollment in their tribes, but there is nothing documented that verifies that information. Before a judge will open a file under ICWA s/he will often demand some sort of proof that the adoptee is NA at all, proof that most adoptees will simply not have. But in other instances, the agency that handled the adoption, or the court file itself, will contain notations that you, the adoptee, do have NA ancestry. If you have received non-ID from a source that states this, include a copy with your court petition. You will also need to include a copy of the ICWA in order to make the judge's work easier and predispose him/her to wanting to help you. If you have any information at all that you are even the smallest bit Native American, you should use the ICWA in your petition. Include affidavits from family members (adoptive and birth) who have told you that you have Native American blood, as well as any 'official' agency or other documents to support your claims. Remember that most tribes have small blood quantum requirements, and you should not feel guilty about using the ICWA. The intent of this law is to ensure that those of us who are entitled to tribal membership by birthright, have the *choice* to join our Native American communities.

What to Expect:

Your petition will have several possible outcomes. It can be denied outright, and you will receive nothing.  Or, you might be denied identifying information, but receive censored copies of documents, or merely a summary of non-ID compiled from the documents themselves.  The judge might also choose to appoint an intermediary. The intermediary will be given the file, and will conduct a search for your birthparents, usually the birthmother if you have not already found her.  She will then be asked for permission to release identifying information to you.  The irony is that in many cases, you still will not be given the court file or the documents contained within it, even if your birthparent(s) agrees to exchange identifying information.  You will usually be required to pay for the intermediary service. In the case of the ICWA, sometimes the Court will appoint a tribal intermediary who will process your tribal enrollment in addition to seeking permission from your birthparent(s) to exchange identifying information.  This is in contravention of the mandates of the Federal Act, but that does not seem to have stopped judges from doing it.  Lastly, copies of parts of or your entire file might be turned over to you, unaltered.

This is a work in progress. Adoptees with experience in petitioning the court for their adoption file are encouraged to email me with the details of their experiences for use in this document.

This post was authored by Shea Grimm,, except where otherwise indicated. It may be copied and distributed freely, in whole or in part, as long as it is not sold, and as long as this notice is kept intact.

Back to Shea's Search Series: The Definitive Guide to Self-Empowered Adoptee Search

Editor Note: The government has files on everyone, going way back.  My sister Teresa and I found a marriage license from 1901 and got copies.  If you do have a name of an ancestor who was adopted, try using the NARA.

 Find an office near you

Toll-free number

1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272)

I have a name! Now what? 

If you have a name, and an indication from your non-ID or other sources that members of your birthfamily served in the military, there are sources on and offline that can provide you with other crucial bits of information. The Freedom of Information Act allows individuals to request certain records on both living and decased military personnel regardless of their relationship to the individual, or reason for the request. Information obtainable under the FOIA includes Name, Service Number, Rank, Dates of Service, Awards and decorations and City/town and state of last known address including date of the address.  If the veteran is deceased you are entitled to Place of birth, Geographical location of death, and Place of burial. To find out where to write for records, visit the National Archives and Records Administration site dealing with military personnel records.

For those searching in Canada, The National Archives of Canada has personnel files of over 5,500,000 former military and civilian employees of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Federal Public Service.  Documents in these records contain information about the individual's employment history with Federal Departments, the military units with which he or she served, pension details, and more.

 Read my earlier articles:

How to Open an Adoption Part One (UPDATED) –FREE, Reunion registry for adoptees, adoptee blogs and information.


Thursday, April 20, 2023



Serpent Mounds repatriation stalled

The Michi Saagig of Hiawatha First Nation have been working for several years on the repatriation of about 200 ancestral remains and ancestral artifacts removed from the Serpent Mounds national historic site, about 150km northeast of Toronto.

The park is home to ancient burial mounds that date back about 2,000 years. There are 10 mounds in total.  The largest is 60 metres long and 8 metres wide, shaped like a snake, that contains the remains of 150-200 individuals.  It's surrounded by eight smaller round mounds, each containing the remains of between 50 and 80 individuals.

The site was excavated in the late 1950s by an archeologist affiliated with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Hiawatha First Nation has been wanting the ancestral remains and artifacts that are at the ROM repatriated for decades, although the formal process was only started a few years ago. 

Richard Johnston's excavation at Serpent Mounds, near Peterborough, Ont., took place from 1957-1960. (Royal Ontario Museum)

While the First Nation received approval to have the remains and items from the mounds returned, not everything from the park is included.

Near the mounds, three burial pits were also excavated.  The Huron-Wendat nation has made a claim to the remains and artifacts removed from the pits.

Chief Laurie Carr of Hiawatha First Nation says this has stalled the repatriation process.

"It's very frustrating that our ancestors are still sitting at the ROM because Huron-Wendat believe that they have claims to them and there's no archeological proof of any Huron-Wendat villages in our area," said Carr.

"There are a few sites around Rice Lake that are said to be Huron-Wendat, however they need to be substantiated." 

Carr said the Huron Wendat haven't come forward to meet with them, "which leaves us stuck."

There are ten mounds in total at Serpent Mounds national historic site, the largest being 60 metres long and shaped like a serpent. (Royal Ontario Museum)

"If they really cared about the ancestors they should be having discussions with us and they're not."

The Conseil de la Nation Huronne-Wendat did not respond to a request for comment. 

The Royal Ontario Museum declined to comment.

The ROM's board policy regarding repatriation of Indigenous human remains says "The ROM will not arbitrarily decide contested cases, i.e., cases in which more than one Indigenous group claim the same ancestors."


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Part Five: What if We Lost ICWA | Our Sovereignty

The plaintiffs, Brackeens, assert ICWA is an unconstitutional law

PART 5: 
Haaland v. Brackeen

By Trace L Hentz, blog editor and adoptee

Am I worried about the ICWA case? Yes. Very.

I am worried that the "Supreme" Court has shown no respect for our inherent sovereign rights.  Just look at history.  This case could rescind the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.  I worry the impact on adoptees now and future Native adoptees.  (ICWA allows adoptees to open their adoption records.)  We are called The Stolen Generation and Sixties Scoop for good reason.

We lost our sovereignty when we were adopted out to white families.  We lost everything - language, culture, land, family, ceremonies and our tribal stories.  (Some of us lost our sanity too!)  Swimming pools, college degrees, and white families in fancy houses, cannot replace this.

Sadly, I do not think these Justices actually know what our loss means!

Many years ago in Wisconsin, two tribal chiefs gave talks to new congresspeople on Sovereignty 101- I interviewed them about it and then wrote an article in News from Indian Country.  They explained it used to be feds (the federal government) that dealt with tribes and the feds were keenly aware of sovereign tribal rights and history.  Both chiefs said state lawmakers were not as understanding.  There was also high turn-over in states and many new congressmen don't know state or federal history, even how tribes signed numerous treaties.

The Department of WAR (who authorized killing Indians) morphed eventually into the Department of the Interior.

I looked back at my blog posts: Sovereignty and how it applies to Haaland vs. Brackeen.

As Rebecca Nagle explained: "A host of federal statutes—including on land rights, water rights, health care, gaming, criminal and civil jurisdiction, and tribal self-governance—treat Native Americans differently based on this political classification.  In this light, I fear that the Brackeen lawsuit is the first in a row of dominoes—if the Court strikes down ICWA, everything else could soon go with it."

"Under federal law, tribes and tribal citizens are not a racial group, but a political one.  Accordingly, ICWA applies only to Native children who either are enrolled in a federally recognized tribe or are eligible based on a given tribe’s citizenship requirements," Nagle said. 

And this:

This cultural difference — that a family’s fitness is determined by its wealth, and that those concerns should outweigh a child’s connection to their family and heritage — is essentially why the Indian Child Welfare Act was created in 1978.  The law recognizes the history of federal policy aimed at breaking up Native families and mandates that, whenever possible, Native families should remain together.

Sarah Kastelic, the executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, said that ICWA acknowledges important familial and tribal bonds that have long been disregarded, and that Native ways — such as extended families living under the same roof — have often been used to show unfitness in child welfare proceedings. “No matter the picket fences and swimming pools and things, most of the time, kids want to be with their families,” she said.

READ: The Native adoption case that could dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act, explained - Vox


👇This is a bit technical but it is the argument the Justices are deliberating:

"What's Missing in the Brackeen Argument: An Indian Affairs Clause"


I was chatting with Prof. Lorianne Updike Toler (Northern Illinois), and she mentioned some thoughts of hers on this subject, based on her recent University of Chicago Law Review article, The Missing Indian Affairs Clause. I encouraged her to write up a blog post, and she kindly passed along the following:

In the November 9th oral argument for Haaland v. Brackeen, which challenges the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, Justice Amy Coney Barret's question about the impact of overruling Congress' plenary power over tribes underscores a centuries-old confusion about federal Indian Affairs.

It's not just the Court that is confused.  Former Volokh Conspiracy posts on point reveal the deep academic fissures over the historical context of the Indian Commerce Clause.  Unknown to the Court and most of academe is the root cause of all the confusion: that the Constitutional Convention initially forgot (and then later intentionally excluded) the Articles of Confederation's Indian Affairs Clause in the Constitution.

As I detail in this University of Chicago Law Review article, Pennsylvanian comparative constitutionalist James Wilson, tasked by the five-member Committee of Detail to draft the Constitution, initially checked off "Indian Affairs" to include as a Congressional power, but then failed to get the power into his final draft.  He was not the only one to forget.  Although the Convention had commissioned the Committee to include all the Congressional powers in the Articles of Confederation (where Indian Affairs featured), Edmund Randolph also forgot to include the power in his initial sketch of the Constitution.  Odd, considering a Cherokee chief had met with him that summer in Philadelphia and he was then directly concerned with settler-tribe disputes on Virginia's frontier as the state's governor.  It was John Rutledge, the South Carolinian chair of the committee, who remembered, scrawling the power in the margin of Randolph's sketch. Yet he later forgot this power in combing through Wilson's final draft, and it was reported out of the Committee sans (without mentioning) Indian Affairs.

But James Madison remembered.  It was he who suggested Indian Affairs be inserted back into the Constitution.  This time, the Committee of Detail intentionally excluded the Clause, instead inserting "Tribes" into the Commerce Clause.  No one objected.  This despite that at least three Convention members had just spent their ten-day break (for the Committee of Detail to meet) fulfilling their congressional duties in New York.  There, impending tribal wars in Virginia and Georgia's Creek disputes were discussed.  Presumably, the Convention thought Congress' previous powers under the Article's Indian Affairs were addressed by the Indian Commerce Clause and other provisions of the Constitution—such as the power to declare war and peace and the president's shared Treaty Power.

What does this mean for the Constitution? Put simply, Congress has no Indian Affairs power, and therefore no plenary power. Early assertion of this power was justified under the tripartite powers of Indian Commerce, War and Treaty Powers. But Congress halted tribal treaty-making long ago.  If it wants to re-assert power over tribes beyond the Commerce Clause, the President needs to begin treating with tribes again.

And what of any residual power? As I propose in my article linked above, the residue reverts to the sovereign tribes. Tribal sovereignty is to tribes what federalism is to the states. Powers not reserved by the Constitution to Congress and the President revert to the tribes.

This would mean that Congress lacked constitutional power to pass ICWA, however well-intentioned.  ICWA was adopted in an attempt to prevent Native American erasure by allowing the community to intervene in adoption and foster cases to ensure tribal children are raised in Native American families.  ICWA grants the child's tribe exclusive jurisdiction over custody proceedings and other intervention privileges.  Further, it establishes placement preferences first in favor of any family members, then the tribe, and then any Native American families regardless of tribal membership.

Unless related to its Indian Commerce power (and heaven forbid if we have arrived at treating adoption of babies and children as commerce), Congress has no power over Native American adoptions. On this basis, ICWA might be unconstitutional wholesale.  However, to the extent ICWA respects tribal sovereignty and refers cases to the child's tribe, it may be constitutional under a structural reading of the Constitution:  The combined intratextual references to tribes as the constitutional unit of recognition— "tribes" under the Commerce Clause and the presumption that Indians are not taxed under Art I. sec. 2 of the Constitution—together with the parallel analog of federalism vis-à-vis states may permit Congress to proactively proscribe federal and state deference to tribal power.  But as Congress has no plenary power over tribes and Native Americans as a people, it cannot specify adoption placement or other preferences.  The Court should so rule in Brackeen.

👇👇👇This gives me hope:



Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute, “Expert Q&A: Professor EagleWoman Explains Important ICWA Case Heading to Supreme Court,” March 10, 2022, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, n.d., 

(to be continued)


ANGEL MOUNDS in INDIANA were looted and destroyed

By Trace L Hentz, blog editor

Looting - that is just one of the topics I research beyond adoption.  It's a pattern really: Looting, Mass Murder, Theft, Mining, Profits, Taking Land, Taking Kids... all of it.  It combines into colonization and all the other terms they use to describe the "making of America" and Canada.

It is very interesting that we are finding out through press releases what was actually looted.  I am still disturbed it took so long.

What did we lose? Pretty much everything: tribes were herded onto reservations, kids taken by gunpoint to residential schools, lands were seized, graves robbed, burial mounds looted and destroyed, and on and on.

What can we do about it?

WHAT IS NAGPRA? NAGPRA is the Native America Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. 

Since 1990, Federal law has provided for the repatriation and disposition of certain Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. By enacting NAGPRA, Congress recognized that human remains of any ancestry "must at all times be treated with dignity and respect." Congress also acknowledged that human remains and other cultural items removed from Federal or tribal lands belong, in the first instance, to lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations. With this law, Congress sought to encourage a continuing dialogue between museums and Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations and to promote a greater understanding between the groups while at the same time recognizing the important function museums serve in society by preserving the past. (US Senate Report 101-473).

A museum can fail to comply with the requirements of NAGPRA and may be assessed a civil penalty by the Department of the Interior.
But there are problems, of course, explained on Native American Calling, when a Lakota elder said their tribal members cannot touch the remains - and the TVA needs to rebury them.  Listen


More than three decades ago, Congress passed a law calling for museums and other groups to return the human remains of Native Americans in their possession.  For years, two major East Tennessee institutions reflected the failure of that law, according to a joint investigation published in March by ProPublica and NBC News.

The investigation found that institutions were failing on a massive scale to return remains to tribes — and that half of the still-unreturned remains are held by a small minority of these institutions. This list is populated in part by prestigious universities like Berkeley and Harvard. But Tennessee was the only state for which multiple institutions — the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley Authority — ranked among the top 10.

(READ MORE: Muscogee Nation, Georgia officials will cooperate on restoring the sacred to tribe)

Both have, however, made recent progress, well after the law in question was passed.

After years in which it returned only a small fraction of the Native American remains in its possession, University of Tennessee (UT) has, like many other institutions, lately returned remains at a far faster pace.

TVA cultural resources

gallery photo

In 2019, for example, it made nearly 2,000 Native American remains taken from what is now South Dakota available to tribal descendants, according to data maintained by the National Park Service.

Still, these and other remains the university has made available to tribes account for just 34% of the 6,000-plus Native American human remains the university reported to be in its possession, according to the database.

The university is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the law, spokeswoman Kerry Gardner said by email, adding that it cannot file a notice with the government listing a set of remains as available to be returned until a tribe files claims for them.

Gardner said the school is working on the claims of several tribes.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, for its part, once reported having the remains of more than 12,800 Native Americans — generally found in modern day Alabama and Tennessee — in its possession.

This remained the case until recently, when TVA, like UT, made a significant portion of these available for return: 72% in its case.

The utility said it will soon relinquish these possessions entirely.  Agency spokesman Scott Fiedler said by email that TVA recently determined that all Native American remains still in its possession should be made available — and that they will be, whenever the Federal Register publishes TVA’s public notice of this.


UT’s and TVA’s holdings of unrepatriated Native American remains are uncommonly large.  But they are just two among about 600 institutions that have reported possessing what still amount to well over 100,000 unreturned Native American human remains.

(READ MORE: TVA seeks public help combating looters of cultural resources such as Native American artifacts)

In some cases, the excavated remains and other artifacts arrived via a kind of sanctioned looting by researchers probing old burial sites.  For example, around the 1900s, archaeologists excavated burial mounds on a widespread basis in the Southeast.  As the ProPublica/NBC News investigation noted, several of the institutions with the most unrepatriated Native American remains in their possession — the Universities of Alabama and Kentucky also made the top 10 list — are based in the region.

Similar research took place in other parts of the nation as well.

“We never ceded or relinquished our dead,” one Arizona State University professor, a member of the Pawnee Nation, told ProPublica/NBC News reporters. “They were stolen.”

Other Native American remains, such as those generally in the possession of TVA, were dug up amid massive infrastructure projects.

“When we constructed reservoirs in the ’30s and ’40s, a tremendous amount of human remains and funerary objects were removed,” TVA has quoted its archaeologist and tribal liaison, Marianne Shuler, as saying on its website.

More than 20 federally recognized Indian tribes attach religious and cultural significance to land TVA manages, Fiedler said.

As a result of the 19th century Indian Removal Act, many — though not all — of these tribes are now based far away.  Efforts to reach repatriation specialists at the Cherokee Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, the Muscogee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians by press time were unsuccessful.


Tribal activism paved the way for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act passed by Congress in 1990. The law sought to make universities, museums and other institutions inventory their artifacts and human remains and consult with Native American groups.

The basic premise was that institutions had to publicly report their holdings and coordinate with tribes to determine to whom the remains should be returned. If a connection was established between the remains and the tribe, the institution would publish a notice on the Federal Register, making the claims available to be repatriated.

Ultimately, few of the institutions with Native American remains in their possession relinquished their holdings in the years following the law’s passage.

Some people resisted the law, sometimes arguing that the remains should stay in museums and universities or that specific modern tribes lack proof that they are the rightful stewards.  UT was among those that avoided the law in the 1990s by categorizing everything in its collection as “culturally unidentifiable,” according to the ProPublica/NBC News investigation.

Asked about this, Gardner, the university spokeswoman, focused on the more recent past, in which the school hired anthropologist Ellen Lofaro in part to spearhead its efforts, and the university’s repatriations increased from 4% to 34% of its holdings.

“Over the last six years, the university has continued to build a program that underscores our commitment,” Gardner said. “We are actively building relationships with and consulting with tribal communities. This work is important, and we are dedicated to continuing to make progress.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority, for its part, began actively consulting with tribes in the 2000s, Fiedler said.  He said tribes prioritized the repatriation of ancestral remains — and that the TVA hired its first Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation specialist in 2009 to focus on the matter.

Since then, the federally-owned utility has made remains available to 11 tribes.

There are thousands of remains left to be passed along. But everything the utility has made available thus far, tribes have taken, Fiedler said.


March 31, 2023


I was searching for a great great grandmother Sarah A Sparks (on the Cherokee Baker Roll) and up pops Tennessee Valley Authority – which got me very confused – why would they have her name?? – then I googled TVA. I am SO ANGRY. I cannot find where she is buried.  Maybe TVA dug her up?

She was married to CHRISTOPHER H HARLOW, a great-great granddad.  TLH


Sacred items in Barre library's museum to be returned to Sioux

(United States of America)

Mark Pratt (2022). Sacred items in Barre library's museum to be returned to Sioux. Telegram & Gazette. 11 October.

Mass. museum returns sacred Native American items from its collection

(United States of America)

Ryan Mancini (2022). Mass. museum returns sacred Native American items from its collection. Masslive. 11 October.

UC Berkeley to repatriate thousands of ancestral remains to Indigenous tribes: 'Restorative justice'

(United States of America)

Jisha Joseph (2022). UC Berkeley to repatriate thousands of ancestral remains to Indigenous tribes: 'Restorative justice'. Upworthy. 24 October.

University of California, Berkeley repatriates cultural artifacts to Indigenous tribe

(United States of America)

Jeffery Brown, Lena I. Jackson (2022). University of California, Berkeley repatriates cultural artifacts to Indigenous tribe. PBS. 10 October.

Why a small British museum went out of its way to repatriate Haida Nation artifacts

(Canada; United Kingdom)

Mouhamad Rachini (2022). Why a small British museum went out of its way to repatriate Haida Nation artifacts Social Sharing Facebook Twitter Pinterest Reddit LinkedIn. CBC. 30 September.

Going home: Big Medicine will be returned to CSKT tribes from historical society

(United States of America)

Darrell Ehrlick (2022). Going home: Big Medicine will be returned to CSKT tribes from historical society. Daily Montanan. 23 October.


LISTEN | First Nations curator wants to know what's inside the Vatican's collection of Indigenous artifacts (80,000 objects in collection)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Saulteaux RCMP officer helps connect #60sScoop survivors with biological families

Using DNA tests, Dean Lerat has created a massive family tree for the Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan...

By day, Dean Lerat is an RCMP staff sergeant in Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask.  But in his free time, the member of Cowessess First Nation is a DNA detective.

Lerat, who is Saulteaux, is using DNA testing and archival records to help Indigenous people learn about their biological families and fill in gaps in their family histories.  With that data, he's creating genetic maps and extensive family trees of the Treaty 4 area in Saskatchewan.

"The Sixties Scoop adoptees [and] descendants of residential school survivors, I think I've helped over 15 of them now find their way back," he told Unreserved host Rosanna Deerchild. 

Lerat said people he doesn't know contact him through social media channels, asking him to help them find where they come from. 

"I'll spend a couple hours in the morning, Saturday morning, having a cup of coffee … trying to figure out who their aunts and uncles are. And then I'll send them back a tree if I can. Whether it's partial, whether it's full," he said. 

"I'm curious. I like to solve mysteries." 

Creating a 'genetic road map'

Along with DNA testing, Lerat also uses obituaries, band lists, censuses and old documents from the Northwest Mounted Police (the precursor to the RCMP) to inform his work.  He also uses online databases offered by companies such as Ancestry, 23 and Me, My Heritage and Family Tree DNA. 

All of this work helps Lerat piece together what he calls a "genetic road map."


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Twitter News? Yup



New settlement $23 billion for First Nations foster kids

$23-billion settlement for First Nations children announced by AFN and Caring Society

The new deal secured $3 billion more than what was proposed by the federal government in 2021 for First Nations children discriminated by the child welfare system.

The Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society  (FNCFS) said they have announced a revised final settlement agreement in a landmark child-welfare case.

The new proposal increases the federal government’s settlement spend to $23 billion — up from $20 billion — to compensate First Nations children and families who have experienced discrimination in the child welfare system.

“This compensation recognizes the serious harms First Nations, children, youth, and families suffered including unnecessary family separations and the denial of life saving and life wellness services,” said Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of FNCFS, in a release Monday.

The AFN, which represents more than 600 First Nations across Canada, has been working to negotiate a deal after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2016 found that Canada discriminated against First Nations children by paying less for child welfare services on-reserve compared to those offered off-reserve.


Vermont #TRC starting from scratch

Ed. Note: Maine has its own TRC - more states to follow, we hope. Trace

Vermont now has a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 'It’s a huge task.'

Dark curtains obscure a view out a window of a building covered in snow.
Elodie Reed /Vermont Public
Vermont’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has officially started its work with the announcement of its first three staff: Mia Schultz, Melody Walker Mackin and Patrick Standen.

A state-funded effort has begun to document how Vermont state laws and policies have discriminated against marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, Black people, Indigenous people, other people of color and people of French Canadian heritage.

It came out of legislation passed last year that created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to seek ways to repair harm caused by the state of Vermont.

In a press conference, a selection panel announced the commissioners who will lead the effort over the next three years as full-time state employees:

The new commissioners stressed their roles include making policy recommendations, as well as hearing experiences of communities who suffered injustices.

“We know this is not about what has just happened in the past,” Schultz said. “This is about how that past continues and is perpetuated in our present, and how we’ll learn from it, and eradicate it in our future.”

They’ll have an annual budget of almost $750,000, and will hire an executive director and other researchers.

“First, we're tasked with starting an office — there’s nothing like this that’s been done before,” Schultz said. “We are starting from scratch.”

"It's a huge task," Melody Walker Mackin said.

A commission with more limited scope was created in Maine to document the state's child welfare practice with Wabanaki people, and Burlington City Council created a Reparations Task Force in 2020, but the new commissioners said they're not familiar with any mandate that's so broad in scope.

"While it may look overwhelming, it's essential that all voices by heard," Standen said. "The resources that are provided by the state at this point seem to be ample and welcomed."

Wilfred Buck Tells The Story Of Mista Muskwa

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They Took Us Away

They Took Us Away
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You are not alone

You are not alone

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Diane Tells His Name

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60s Scoop Survivors Legal Support


Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
click to read and listen about Trace, Diane, Julie and Suzie


As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.


Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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