PONCA, Neb. (KCAU) — An artifact of the Ponca Tribe was returned to the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska on Friday, June 3.
According to a release from the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, a delegation from the Ponca Tribe including members of the Tribal Council and Staff, went to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University where a ceremony of returning the pipe-tomahawk owned by Chief Standing Bear to the Ponca Tribe.
The Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma joined the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska in celebrating the return of an important piece of heritage to the Tribal Nation, according to the release.
The release specified that the pipe-tomahawk was originally gifted to Standing Bear’s attorney John Lee Webster. Webster was one of Standing Bear’s lawyers in the historical Standing Bear v. Crook case. The pipe-tomahawk was sold to a private collector after Webster passed away. It was passed owners a few times before it was acquired by Harvard in 1982.
The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska began to work with the Peabody Museum to bring the pipe-tomahawk back to the Tribe on behalf of the descendants of Standing Bear, according to the release.
The Peabody Museum started the process of returning the pipe-tomahawk to the Ponca Tribe in 2021, but restrictions relating to COVID-19 delayed the return until the spring of 2022.
The Director of the Peabody Museum Jane Pickering said during the ceremony that the Peabody wanted to acknowledge the damage that was done by acquiring artifacts such as the pipe-tomahawk, and expressed the Peabody’s desire to think, “about our relationship to affected communities, to try to repair the harm that these practices have caused,” according to the release.
The release indicated that both delegations from the Ponca Tribe reacted positively to the efforts of Peabody and the ceremony.
“As I was up here, and I first saw the tomahawk, I was just thinking, ‘wow, my grandfather touched this,’” said Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Tribal Historic Preservation Officer and Standing Bear Descendant Stacy Laravie, “I just can’t express how I feel right now, so my tears are doing it for me.”
The release indicated that Dr. Louis Headman from Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma spoke of his admiration for Standing Bear as an ancestor for both tribes. It was stated that he wished all Ponca recognize their common roots, “We’re not northern and we’re not southern; we are Ponca,” he said.
“What happened here today is what I think we all want to happen, for the Peabody and Harvard not just to do the bare minimum of complying with the law, but to recognize the rightful and moral claims of your sovereign nation,” said Peabody Faculty Executive Committee for Harvard Shawon Kinew, “You belong to this pipe, and it was always your right to care for this pipe.”
Laravie added, “We talk about generational trauma, but we don’t talk about generational healing, and that’s what we’re doing now, this is healing.”
Plans for the exhibition of Chief Standing Bear’s pipe-tomahawk will be announced at a later date, according to the release.