Home to Cape Cod

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Sometimes it can take years to repatriate ancestors and funerary belongings back to Native American tribes.  And sometimes, it can take just a few weeks. 

On November 9th, the Peabody partnered with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (PMAE) of Harvard University to repatriate ancestors and belongings to representatives of the Wampanoag Confederacy.  From start to finish, this process took about six weeks – a credit to the partnership work with the PMAE and our established relationship with the Wampanaog.

We are always happy to see ancestors return home and have the opportunity to share that with so many wonderful partners.

Representatives of the Wampanoag Confederacy, the Peabody Institute, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard pose for a socially distanced photograph

Reflections on Repatriation

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Most of my time lately has been spent on repatriation work.  This work isn’t something that I can share lots of details about, but it is probably both the most challenging and rewarding part of my job. 

The Peabody has always had a commitment to working with tribes and Indigenous peoples to ensure that ancestors, funerary belongings, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony are repatriated in a respectful and timely fashion.  I am fortunate to inherit that past work and a strong institutional reputation for fairness and responsibility.  It is a high standard that I constantly strive to uphold.

In late October, I was able to take part in the 6th Annual Repatriation Conference sponsored by the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA).  This conference was a focused on the 30th anniversary of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).  It was fabulous to learn about the work of other institutions and tribes, share strategies to overcome challenges, hear about success stories, and be inspired by so many other dedicated professionals. 

I was the most impacted by a wonderful presentation on decolonization by the Director of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, ME and the staff of the Museum of Us in San Diego, CA.  The incredible work they have done, and continue to do, to address the inherently colonial nature of a museum interpreting the material culture of minority and Indigenous communities is inspiring.  Listening to their presentation and thinking about the work we do at the Peabody, I was pleased to identify so much overlap.  The thought we have put into the decolonizing process manifests itself in our collections policies, NAGPRA policy, how we approach education, and approach research inquiries.

I take this part of my job very seriously.  My work can’t erase past mistreatment of these ancestors and belongings, or redress colonial wrongs, but I can make progress.  The changes that I am part of will hopefully become the foundation of a stronger reputation for caring, meticulousness, and a progressive attitude toward repatriation.  Decolonization work is anti-racism work.

In mid-November, a colleague and I will be presenting to the NAGPRA Community a Practice (a group of scholars and NAGPRA practitioners from museum and tribes) on the topic of decolonizing collections care.  I am excited to share my ideas with this group and get feedback.

The process of decolonization will probably never end and there will always be more to learn.  I look forward to the challenge!

This artwork was created especially for the 6th Annual Repatriation Conference by George Curtis Levi, who is a member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe of Oklahoma and is also Southern Arapaho. This ledger art painting depicts how repatriation builds community and strengthens culture. It was painted on an antique mining document from Montana that dates from the 1890s.

NAGPRA at 30: Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

NAGPRA at 30: Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future

New England Museum Association Annual Meeting 2020

NAGPRA resources for session attendees:

NAGPRA Communities of Practice: https://liberalarts.du.edu/anthropology-museum/nagpra/community-practice Network of NAGPRA practitioners from museums, tribes, universities, and government agencies; bimonthly Zoom calls with presentations and networking opportunities; document and repatriation policy sharing.

National NAGPRA: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nagpra/index.htm The National Park Service’s national NAGPRA website, with templates, databases, grant information, and contacts for the NPS professional NAGPRA staff.

NAGPRA data visualization: https://public.tableau.com/profile/melanie.obrien#!/vizhome/NAGPRA-Totals/1_Reported Tableau presentation of NAGPRA data, highlighting institutional and geographic compliance.

Association on American Indian Affairs annual repatriation conference: https://www.indian-affairs.org/repatriation_conference.html The annual conference brings together repatriation practitioners and includes plenary and specialized sessions on all aspects of NAGPRA and repatriation.

Carrying our Ancestors Home: https://www.fowler.ucla.edu/archaeology/coah/ Fowler Museum at UCLA project that documents their work with repatriation.

NAGPRA resources from the University of Indiana, Bloomington: https://lrnagpra.sitehost.iu.edu/nagpra-education/Educational%20Resources.php Includes online resources, further reading, videos, and more.

Contact information and bios for facilitators:

Nekole Alligood, independent consultant, is a member of the Delaware Nation and has served as the NAGPRA Officer for the Nation. Alligood is a cultural anthropologist who has worked in museums and in Section 106.  She has conducted NAGPRA repatriations in collaboration with the Delaware Tribe of Indians and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community and a non-NAGPRA reburial teaming with the National Forest Service in West Virginia.  She currently is a scholar on the development of a traveling exhibit with Ball State University and Ohio History Connection focused on St. Claire’s Defeat (Battle of the Wabash).  She also is working with Ohio History Connection on a reinterpretation of Schoenbrunn Village in Ohio. E-mail: workinglenape@gmail.com

Jaime Arsenault is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), Repatriation Representative, and Archives Manager for the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Ms. Arsenault has worked with Indigenous communities for over 20 years. Currently, she is a member of the Minnesota Historical Society Indian Advisory Committee and the Repatriation Working Group with the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) and a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Repatriation Review Committee. She is a Community Intellectual Property Advisory Board Member for the Penobscot Nation and sits on both the Advisory Committee and the Collections Committee of the Peabody Institute of Archaeology. Ms. Arsenault also serves as a MuseDI Partner on decolonization practice for the Abbe Museum. E-mail: Jaime.Arsenault@whiteearth-nsn.gov

David Goldstein is an anthropologist with the National Park Service currently serving as the Tribal and Cultural Affairs Specialist in the Northeast Region. David works to bring the region’s tribal and community partners into the NPS stewardship programs through sharing capacity and ongoing consultation.  The goal is to support self-determination and resource protection, acknowledging that tribal and community partnerships provide long term sustainability to stewardship. E-mail: david_goldstein@nps.gov

Katie Kirakosian is a trained archaeologist whose research focuses on the history of Native American archaeology. She has conducted archival research in repositories throughout New England and New York State on many NAGPRA sensitive sites, particularly shell middens, prompting recent research with co-author Irene Gates on the complex nature of archival records and digital repatriation. E-mail: kvkirako@anthro.umass.edu

Krystiana L. Krupa is NAGPRA Program Officer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her NAGPRA experience includes osteology and archival research relating to university and museum collections in addition to consultation. Krystiana’s current work focuses on tribal perspectives on the repatriation of biological samples extracted from ancestral remains, such as ancient DNA extracts. E-mail: klkrupa@illinois.edu

Melanie O’Brien is responsible for carrying out all duties assigned to the National NAGPRA Program by the Secretary of the Interior and serves as the Designated Federal Officer to the NAGPRA Review Committee. Throughout her career, Melanie has specialized in Federal-Indian law and policy, applying her master’s degree in public history from Loyola University Chicago to the work of the Federal government. E-mail: maobrien@nps.gov

Lorén M. Spears, Narragansett, Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, holds a Master’s in Education and received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Rhode Island. She is an author, artist and shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She has written curriculum, poetry, and narratives published in a variety of publications such as Dawnland Voices, An Anthology of Indigenous Writing of New England; Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond; The Pursuit of Happiness: An Indigenous View and From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution. Recently, she co-edited a new edition of A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams. She consults with K-12 districts, Higher Education, museums and historical societies on Native American Cultural Competency and DEI/J training. E-mail: lorenspears@tomaquagmuseum.org

Marla Taylor is the curator of collections at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA.  She has worked in all facets of collections management from cataloging to conservation to repatriation.  Marla currently splits her time between leading an effort to conduct a full inventory of the collection and facilitating access to the Peabody’s collection for tribal partners, researchers, and educators. E-mail: mtaylor@andover.edu

Jayne-Leigh Thomas is the Director of the Office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act at Indiana University. Her work involves active consultation with over 100 federally recognized sovereign nations across the United States to return ancestral human remains and cultural items to their rightful communities. Her research interests are NAGPRA, repatriation, bioarchaeology, ethics, cremation studies, and mortuary studies. E-mail: thomajay@indiana.edu

Jackie Veninger-Robert is the NAGPRA Coordinator for the University of Connecticut.  In addition to her NAGPRA and collection management responsibilities for the Office of State Archaeology, Jackie advises students and provides instruction on issues surrounding Native American cultural property law and advocates for opportunities to decolonize museum anthropology.  Jackie has worked for tribal governments in southern New England in a NAGPRA and collections management capacity.  She is a non-member advisee of Connecticut’s Native American Heritage Advisory Council (NAHAC).  Her research interests include: archaeological ethics, heritage management and conflict archaeology. E-mail: jacqueline.veninger@uconn.edu

Ryan Wheeler is the director of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology, a museum at Phillips Academy, Andover MA. At the Peabody he has advanced a strategic vision focused on collections, education, and repatriation. In 2017, Ryan co-founded the Journal of Archaeology & Education, the only academic journal devoted to the intersection of these two fields. Ryan lives with his family in Medford, MA. E-mail: rwheeler@andover.edu

LeRoy Jimerson Jr. ’41: From Gowanda to Gemini

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Today’s Phillips Academy students often ask about the students of the past. Since November is Native American Heritage Month, the topic of Indigenous alumni often comes up. Happily, we are in touch with some recent alums, like Emma Slibeck ’20, who led efforts last year to create an Indigenous Land Acknowledgment, and Tristin Moone ’10, past member of the Peabody Advisory Committee. Paige Roberts, Academy archivist, maintains a list of notable Native American alumni, and we were happy to add LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Jr. (January 21, 1923 – September 28, 1991) to that list during some recent collections research.

From the Pot Pourri–Phillips Academy yearbook for 1941

Jimerson was the son of Seneca leader LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Sr. of the Cattaraugus Reservation, Gowanda, New York. He attended Phillips Academy for one year, graduating in 1941. The senior Jimerson was an accomplished carpenter, attended Hampton University (a HBCU in Virginia that has some PA connections in its founding), established a scholarship fund for Native students, and served in Seneca leadership positions throughout his adult life.

After Phillips Academy, LeRoy Jimerson Jr. served in the Navy and pursued interests in electrical engineering and computers. He was an instructor at the Great Lakes Naval Base and at Treasure Island, California. Jimerson, in 1949, received a scholarship to the University of Michigan. Established in 1932 by the Michigan Board of Regents, that scholarship acknowledged the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs, which had required tribes to cede millions of acres to the federal government, some of which ultimately went to the university. Perhaps an early version of an institutional land acknowledgment?

LeRoy Jimerson building an analog computer–from Boys’ Life magazine, 1951

A profile in 1951 Boys’ Life combines quaint anecdotes and stereotypes of life on the reservation with Jimerson’s academic success and interest in computers. The story appeared shortly after Jimerson completed his studies at the University of Michigan, but includes a lot of information on his post-graduate year at Phillips Academy when he “joined the school band, ran as a member of the cross-country squad, distinguished himself as a math student, won a Latin prize, and was elected to a cum laude (honor) society.” In the Boys’ Life article, he describes general acceptance by his fellow Academy students, relating one instance where an international student wanted to know why he wasn’t wearing paint and feathers. Today we recognize this as a micro-aggression, akin to the numerous accounts found on the black@andover Instagram page.

In the 1950s, Jimerson worked for Schlumberger, an oil field services company. Here he was involved in developing a magnetic resonance apparatus with scientist and engineer Francois F. Kirchner. Nuclear magnetic resonance continues to be used in oil prospecting today.

Block diagram of Gemini’s guidance system–from https://virtualagc.github.io/virtualagc/Gemini.html

IBM, in Owego, NY, recruited Jimerson in June 1957, where he was quickly promoted to senior engineer. In 1962, McDonnell Aircraft contracted with IBM to provide the guidance systems for Gemini. From 1962 to 1966, Jimerson worked as a computer engineer on the NASA Gemini mission, laying the groundwork for Apollo and the moon landing a few years later. In an interview, Jimerson recalled that, “It was like a blitzkrieg, people didn’t know what hit them” (Time-Life Books 1993:33). According to a document prepared in 2012, Jimerson originated the math flows needed in the computer programming for the Gemini missions. Math flows–in this context–are detailed flowcharts like the one shown here, showing the sequence of algorithms that underlie computer code. At some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Jimerson and his family relocated to Herndon, Virginia, though it is not clear if he continued working for IBM.

LeRoy S. Jimerson (left) and David R. Baldauf, two of IBM’s Federal Systems Division engineers, study graphic output of Gemini rendezvous data. The image originally appeared in the August 1962 issue of an internal IBM publication called Business Machines. Courtesy of International Business Machines Corporation, © 1962 International Business Machines Corporation.

Jimerson died on September 28, 1991 in Sarasota, Florida, where he had retired with his family in the mid-1980s. The picture that emerges from the few interviews that we located, is that LeRoy Jimerson Jr. was an accomplished scientist and engineer who worked on one of the country’s early and significant space flight programs. His time at Phillips Academy was short and well spent, and a stop along an educational career that included one of the top scientific and technical programs–the University of Michigan. Until recently, LeRoy Jimerson wasn’t on our radar. We are hopeful that Phillips Academy can connect with more Native and Indigenous students–it is clear we have a lot to offer one another.

Further Reading

Buffalo Courier Express (1961) LeRoy Jimerson Obituary. February 23, 1961, p. 27.

Crump, Irving (1951) Indian Cum Laude. Boys’ Life (March 1951):27, 64.

IBM (1962) Putting a Man on the Moon: America’s Next Step. Business Machines (August 1962):18-19.

Jamestown Post Journal (1961) Famed Seneca Indian Leader, LeRoy S. Jimerson, 72, Dies. February 23, 1961.

Kirchner, Francois F., and LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Jr. (1961) 2,996,658 Magnetic Resonance Apparatus (originally filed December 12, 1955). United States Patent Office, Washington DC. https://patents.google.com/patent/US2996658A/en

Mooney, Pat, and Charlie Leist (2012) Gemini Programing Development and Verification Process. https://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/Documents/Gemini_Peer_Reviews.pdf

Thomas, Amelia Kennedy (2015) Iroquois False Face Masks: Living Representation of Spirits. https://indian.hklaw.com/ESSAYS/2015/ID105.pdf

Time-Life Books (1993) Space. Time-Life Book, New York.