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Chief Standing Bear's tomahawk could return to Ponca tribes

The tomahawk is at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, but the museum is in talks to give it back
Posted at 6:45 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 19:51:48-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Chairman Larry Wright Jr. wants to preserve Native-American history.

RELATED: Descendant of Chief Standing Bear wants Harvard to return tomahawk

"We're nation-building still, bringing everything back that we lost including our culture, our traditions and our language," Wright Jr. said.

Bringing the tomahawk back is how he'll do it.

"We have an item that was at that trial, that belonged to Standing Bear. All he wanted to do was go home, bury his son in our homeland and where he's buried himself," Wright Jr. said. "And now that item can come to Nebraska where he wanted to be."

Wright Jr. and other tribal representatives plan on visiting the Peabody Museum.

"Delegations from both the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and Oklahoma are gonna go out there and visit the museum, visit the artifacts themselves," Wright Jr. said. "Between the two tribes, we'll make the correct and appropriate cultural ceremonies and planning to bring those back."

Attorney Brett Chapman is a descendant of Standing Bear who wrote a letter to Harvard asking to repatriate the tomahawk.

"I didn't threaten to sue them, I didn't cite any laws because I know that these institutions when they go under this law called NAGPRA — The Native American Graves Repatriation Act — that these types of things happen, they say they'll give it back and there's this whole long process that's completely unnecessary," Chapman said.

Chapman is disappointed at how this process is playing out.

"The way I look at it, is if they say they are going to give it back, just give it back, they shouldn't have any control over the disposition of it, if you are agreeing you don't have a moral right to have it," Chapman said.

By bringing the tomahawk home Wright Jr. believes that Standing Bear's legacy will come full circle.

"It's symbolic for our people, for all of our things that our ancestors went through, here we are today, still trying to honor them and take care of this generation and the next," Wright Jr. said.

That tomahawk was donated to the Peabody Museum in 1982. According to a statement from the Museum, the tribal chairman and other representatives will visit in September.

RELATED: Bringing the tomahawk of Standing Bear back to the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska

Ponca Tribe of Nebraska wants Standing Bear's tomahawk back