Harvard returning Chief Standing Bear's tomahawk after decades in museum

 Harvard returning Chief Standing Bear's tomahawk after decades in museum
© iStock

Harvard University has said that it will return a tomahawk that belonged to Chief Standing Bear to the Ponca tribe of Nebraska, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

In a statementthe university’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology shared that it is working with the Ponca tribe to return the tomahawk to its rightful owners. 

“The timetable for discussion has been established by the tribal nations. As a next step, the tribal chairmen and other tribal representatives have accepted an invitation to visit the Peabody Museum in September to view the pipe tomahawk, as well as three other items associated with Standing Bear, and funerary objects that have been repatriated to the Ponca people under NAGPRA,” Harvard said in a statement. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Chief Standing Bear was arrested in 1878 by federal authorities for leaving his reservation to bury his son. In a landmark trial, Standing Bear successfully fought for the rights of Native Americans’ recognition as people, according to the AP. 

The chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Lary Wright Jr. told The Hill that the return of the tomahawk is “significant” for his tribe, which lost its land to the federal government in the late 1880s. 

“And we have an opportunity to bring items that belong to Standing Bear back to the homeland that he desperately wanted to get back to," Wright Jr. said.

He said this was "very significant and very appropriate.”

The university noted that it had the tomahawk in its museum since 1982 as part of a collection from William Henry Claflin Jr.’s estate. Claflin had purchased the item from the widow of attorney William R. Morris in 1930. 

Standing Bear, who died in 1908, has been honored with statues dedicated to his legacy. 
Wright Jr. and the museum both said they do not know how the Standing Bear’s tomahawk came into Morris’s possession.