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Long, slow road to what’s right

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is poised to return the remains of 65 American Indians to modern-day tribes in Oklahoma and Florida. How the skulls and skeletons of scores of American Indians made it from the southern states to UMass and, eventually, back again is a story that unfolded over nearly a century.

1925 Amherst College professor F.B. Loomis, heads to Florida to help excavate a mammoth’s bones, digs up remains of at least 64 American Indians in burial heaps. He returns to Amherst with 50 skulls, and a dozen skeletons. The remains are held in the Amherst College’s Gilbert Museum of Indian Relics for decades.

1980 (circa), Loomis’ collection, along with other remains excavated in 1869, are donated to UMass.

1993 The federal Native American Graves Protection Act requires public institutions to inventory collections of American Indian remains and repatriate them.

1990s Faculty and graduate student volunteers start contacting tribes.

1997 UMass makes its inventory public.

2000 (circa), UMass consults with 19 tribes to begin repatriation of the Loomis collection.

2012 Determination made that remains belong to the Muscogeee (Creek) Nation, Oklahoma; Seminole Tribe of Florida; and the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

2013 UMass and tribes begin to schedule the return of the remains to their final resting places.


UMass plans to repatriate American Indian remains

Friday, February 1, 2013

AMHERST — In 1925, while excavating mammoth bones on Florida’s east coast, prolific paleontologist and Amherst College professor F.B. Loomis discovered some curious mounds. Loomis had his men dig them up, removing layer after layer of earth mixed with human skeletons. After the seven-week dig, Loomis returned to Amherst with his bounty: 50 skulls and about a dozen skeletons. They …

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