Colgate University Returns Culturally Significant Oneida Items

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Colgate University returned over 1,500 culturally significant items back to the Oneida Indian Nation in a repatriation ceremony that took place in the University’s Chapel House. 

These objects were purchased in 1959 from the collection of Herbert Bigford Sr., an amateur archaeologist who took these items from burial mounds around New York State between the years 1924 and 1957, according to an article from the Associated Press. 

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which has been in place since 1990, mandated that federally funded institutions return items taken from Federal or tribal lands.

According to an email sent from Colgate University President Brian Casey and Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lesleigh Cushing to the Colgate community, this is the 5th repatriation since 1995 and is also one of the largest single repatriations in the history of the state of New York.

The email also gives credit to the staff of the University’s Longyear Museum of Anthropology, Oneida Indian Nation Partners for their work as well as a Consultation and Documentation grant for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act program for the repatriation. 

“Many of the sacred belongings being repatriated came into the University’s possession through a collection acquired in 1959,” Casey and Cushing said in the statement. “It should have never been acquired.” 

According to the Associated Press, around 870,000 Native American artifacts, almost 110,000 of which are human remains, have yet to be returned to tribes from federally funded colleges, universities and museums. 

Full story to come.