Stateside Podcast: Pokagon Band offers home to stolen remains
The nearly unbelievable story of an amateur archeologist's massive and illegal collection and how a Michigan tribe stepped forward to reinter unidentified native remains.
"We did everything we could within our traditions and our culture to provide them utmost respect, honor and love as far as we could, as we place them back into the womb of Mother Earth." That's what the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi's historic preservation officer Matthew Bussler told Stateside's April Baer.
This past fall the tribe reinterred the partial remains of at least 138 unidentified native individuals from around the globe. How they came into their possession is a decades long saga.
MLive's Matthew Miller recently wrote an in-depth article about Don Miller (no relation), the man behind a massive collection of native artifacts and remains and how the FBI returned them to their proper places as best they could.
He said, "The collection was 42,000 items, including the remains of 500 individuals. And a lot of those were partial remains. Don Miller would sometimes just take skulls. It speaks to a kind of profound disrespect for the the remains he was dealing with."
When the FBI took control of the collection, they reached out for assistance. Miller said, "The FBI brought in archeologists from the very get go and also Native American tribes were consulting on site while they were clearing out the objects, because in addition to remains, there were also funerary items, things that had been buried with people. And figuring out where those went back to was part of the process."
One of the tribes contacted was the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, headquartered in Southwest Michigan. The tribe's historic preservation office Matthew Bussler said, "When we were made aware of these collections that were in central Indiana, we immediately, without hesitance, stepped up to the plate and offered that we would handle the repatriation and reinternment of any individuals that were unable to be affiliated with a tribal community or even a community from somewhere internationally."
Bussler added that the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi is blessed enough, "to have the resources and the space, and also a group of very humble and kind and compassionate individuals who are willing to offer those traditional ceremonies and that love, care and respect to anybody. You know, we're all human beings and we need to take care of one another."