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  September 3, 2002

Native American Artifacts Returned
By Carol Davidge

Ten funerary objects originally from a Native American burial site have been returned to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation by the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.

In a ceremony at the Museum on Friday, State Archaeologist Nicholas F. Bellantoni and Ellen Censky, the Museum's director, handed the items to representatives of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

The items returned were a string of clamshell wampum beads, a brass arrow point, three stone pestles, an iron trade hatchet, an iron spike, a brass trade cooking pan, a brass trade kettle, and a brass button.

Bellantoni says that the Office of State Archaeology at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and the University of Connecticut have been involved since the mid-1980s in the reburial and repatriation of Native American remains and artifacts with the state's Indian community.

"In the past we have repatriated funerary objects shown to be affiliated with the state's tribes, as well as participating with the state's Indian representatives in the reburial of over 50 Native American skeletal remains that had been previously disturbed by construction activities," he said. The Office of State Archaeology is responsible, under state law, for reburials in accordance with tribal traditions.

"These precious spiritual objects will be gratefully received by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and accorded full ceremonial reburial by the tribe," said Theresa Bell, executive director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.

The objects were removed during excavations for the construction of a home in Mystic, Conn., in 1942. They were sold some time later by the property owner to Norris L. Bull, a collector of Indian artifacts from the 1930s to the 1950s. In 1963, Bull's estate provided for the University to receive these and other cultural items, and they were held by the Department of Anthropology until 1994, when they were accessioned by the State Museum of Natural History.

Museum records indicate that the items returned on Friday were found with the human remains of five Native Americans, but those remains are not in the possession of the natural history museum.

The objects are believed to have been placed with or near individual human remains at the time of death or later as part of the death ceremony.

Based on geographic and historical evidence, the site of the burials coincides with the aboriginal territory of the Pequot Indians, and is close to the site of the Pequot Fort attacked by John Mason in 1637. Bellantoni says the attributes of the burial goods are consistent with a 17th-century date for the burials. Members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut are the direct descendants of the Pequot Indians.

In accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a notice of intent to repatriate these 10 items appeared in the Federal Register on July 8.

No other Indian tribe has claimed them.

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