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Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan Recommitment to the Earth
October 12, 2012 - Nibokaan Cemetery
Isabella Reservation, Michigan

Event Video

Watch video of the event on the Ziibiwing Cultural Center

Ziibiwing has been working on behalf of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan and other Great Lakes Tribes to bring home ancestors and their associated funerary objects.

REPATRIATE: to restore or return to the country of origin, allegiance, or citizenship

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and its Ziibiwing Cultural Society repatriated 125 ancestral remains on October 12, 2012. 124 individuals and their associated funerary objects came from the University of Michigan.

Prior to 1901, 1 ancestral individual was donated to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology in Andover, Massachusetts

A small delegation from the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe drove there to retrieve the ancestor for the reburial. The remains were personally walked to the Nibokaan Cemetery on the Isabella Reservation. The newly created Saginaw Chippewa Men’s Society were on hand to assist with the reburial.

Honored guests: Dennis Banks, Great Lakes Spiritual Leaders including Eddie Benton Banai, George Martin and Duncan Standing Rock Sr., & Alvin Windyboy.

The remains were kept in 9,360 boxes which had to be opened and respectfully placed in cloth bundles. This process took many volunteers and hours to complete. The remains were prayed for and feasted in a traditional manner. This effort was in collaboration with the 12 Federally Recognized Tribes & the 2 State Historic Tribes of Michigan and the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation of Montana & Sokaogan Chippewa Community, Wisconsin. The Transfer of Control documents between the University of Michigan and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian of Michigan took place on October 11, 2012, at 3 p.m. at the U-M Kipke Campus Safety Building.

Prior to this repatriation, the remains were dug up, kept in boxes on shelves and photographed – all in the name of science.

The Nibokaan Cemetery was created in 1995 for the explicit purpose of reburying repatriated Native American ancestral remains and associated funerary objects. The Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed in 1990. Today there are still over 1,300 ancestors still being held at the University of Michigan. Nationally it is estimated that there are over 180,000 ancestors being kept in universities, museums and other repositories. Globally the number of our ancestors who were boxed up and shipped to other countries are unknown.

Laid to rest on a bed of cedar, surrounded by birch bark and saama, prayers were sent up for a safe journey home……
Baamaa pi

Photos from the event

Brought to you by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Public Relations Department and Ziibiwing Cultural & Lifeways
Photos by Marcella Hadden, Niibing Giizis Studio

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