Hundreds of items collected by amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters from the 1930s to the 1960s are being returned to Native American tribes for repatriation by Center of Southwest Studies.
The items are in the Homer Root Ledger Collection, which includes 1,700 items.
Hundreds of the items have been identified as funerary objects that came from ancient gravesites and are covered under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriations Act.
Center of Southwest Studies Director Shelby Tisdale told the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees on Friday that the return of the items is part of the center’s continuing effort to come into compliance with NAGPRA, which requires the return of Native American cultural items, including funerary items, taken from their original locations.
“We invite tribal representatives to have face-to-face discussions,” Tisdale said about outreach from the center to tribes to examine items in the collection for repatriation.
The center has held discussions with 12 tribes and plans to hold another discussion with the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico in May. Tisdale said representatives of all tribes are welcome to begin discussions with the center for repatriation of items.
Board of Trustee Chairman Ernest House Jr., a member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, said, “To the tribes, this is some of the most important and sensitive work that we can do.”
Given FLC’s mission, he added it is important that the college “go beyond the letter and the spirit of the law” to set a standard that could be modeled nationwide for NAGPRA compliance.
Items returned will include 161 funerary objects, 58 of which were traded or misidentified by the amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters. Other items to be returned include 103 funerary objects identified as coming from ancestral Puebloan sites, including 79 ceramic vessels, 13 lithic objects, 10 mineral samples and one animal bone.
The items were collected from La Plata, Montezuma, Dolores and San Juan counties in Colorado and McKinley County in New Mexico.
Based on consultations with tribes, the items will be repatriated with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Uintay/Ouray. Items also will be repatriated with the Hopi, Jicarilla and Apache tribes, and with the Pueblo of Zuni, Pueblo of Acoma, Pueblo of San Felipe, Pueblo of Santa Clara and the Pueblo of Tesuque, all in New Mexico, and Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Texas.