"ARTIFACTS" AND NATIVE BURIALS [AND A DIGRESSION INTO AN UNUSUAL FUR CONFERENCE EPISODE] Hunter Gray 11-22-01]
ALCOHOL AND PEYOTE AND NATIVE AMERICANS [Hunter Gray 11/16/01] UPDATED
"ARTIFACTS" AND NATIVE BURIALS [AND A DIGRESSION INTO AN UNUSUAL FUR CONFERENCE EPISODE] Hunter Gray 11-22-01]
Note by Hunterbear:
This post has two dimensions: The first is the news item relating to theft
of Native artifacts and consequent prison sentence in the case of a former
museum curator at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison. This
is sad. The SHSW has an excellent reputation and, in its archival
dimension, houses the excellent National Social Action Collection.
The former curator's name rings a bell and there is a slightly more than
faint possibility that I met him at the Fur Trade Conference, 1981, which
climaxed at Thunder Bay, Ontario. If so, this is one more indication that
that conference was somewhat jinxed. The final event -- a genuinely
excellent dinner hosted by the Hudson's Bay Company -- had, as its scheduled
speaker, the then director of the Oregon Historical Society. The HBC also
provided excellent alcoholic beverage. I drink good Scotch in moderation --
and, with a glass, settled back to hear what the man from Oregon had to say.
As it turned out, he had a great deal.
It was obvious to all from the beginning that he was intoxicated; and, to
the angry discomfiture of the black-clad, stern-faced Presbyterian clergyman
who also sat on the podium, immediately began to tell sexual jokes. Soon
enough, however, the now slightly staggering OHS director went somewhat
clumsily down to a dinner table, found an almost full bottle of Scotch, and
took it back up with him. As he swigged and swayed, he told us he was
switching topics -- and would instead be discussing sex practices in the
fur trade of Western North America, and Siberia as well. He did that in
great detail for two very interesting [if somewhat strange] hours. Half of
the people [male and female] were profoundly shocked, horrified -- and the
other half [female and male] found it hilarious. [I put on the poker face
that has served me so well from school days onward.] At the end he was
ended, too, and the subsequently printed and mailed Proceedings of the
Conference omitted this -- episode.
Back to much more serious things [but we can always use an intriguing
digression]: There is "big money" in bona fide traditional Native arts and
crafts and other creative works and the value tends to go up -- and often
very, very high -- with the age of the item. This sort of massive theft
suffered by Wisconsin is neither surprising nor rare. Many of us feel that
museums should return much of their Native collections to the tribes from
which -- often via outright chicanery -- they were taken. We see this as
an especially compelling priority in the case of explicitly religious items.
The second portion of all of this involves a brief discussion [an excerpt,
with a bit of new material, from a post I made on another list some months
ago] concerning the widespread desecration and pillaging of old-time, often
ancient Native burials by unscrupulous non-Indians in a mercenary search
for ancient artifacts. I also briefly discuss the issue of the vast numbers
of Native skeletal remains held by museums and related institutions.
Monday, November 19, 2001
"Former curator sentenced to 15 years in prison"
By SARAH WYATT
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- "A former curator at the Wisconsin Historical Society
museum convicted of stealing American Indian artifacts was sentenced to 15
years in prison and 30 years on probation Monday by a Dane County Circuit
David Wooley, 53, stole artifacts valued at more than $100,000, including a
rare war club, beaded buckskin bag, cradle board cover, quiver and silver
earrings. The hearing before Judge Moria Kruger lasted two full days --
Kruger said Wooley showed a " disdain for the process of trying to preserve
history" and showed little remorse for "the increasing concentric circles of
pain, injury, damage and destruction that have come from his actions."
"You will be known for the rest of your life as a criminal and as a thief,"
the judge told Wooley before sentencing him. "You are a major criminal and
you have no credibility with this court."
Wooley pleaded guilty to 14 counts of felony theft and three counts of
failing to file a state tax return. In a plea agreement, 10 other theft
counts were dismissed.
He faced up to 100 years in prison.
Most of the artifacts are 150 to 200 years old. They were donated to or
purchased by the historical society as much as a century ago.
Wooley decided to cooperate with authorities after he was charged with
stealing a Ho-Chunk war club from the society' s museum. He admitted to
stealing about two dozen items, most of them American Indian artifacts.
Some of the stolen items were sold and others were found at Wooley' s home,
according to court testimony.
The museum staff later determined another 120 items were missing that Wooley denied taking, Wisconsin Historical Society museum director Ann Koski said.
Defense lawyer Chris Van Wagner argued during the sentencing hearing that at
the time of the thefts, his client suffered from depression and heart
problems, and Wooley' s teen-age daughter was seriously ill. He used the
money to pay medical bills and expenses, Van Wagner said.
He said Wooley did help locate the stolen items he had sold, was a
nonviolent first offender and had already lost the esteem of his profession.
The theft investigation and prosecution has monopolized the time and energy
of the museum staff and caused unknown damage to the society's reputation,
"We did consider this to be a very serious and sad offense and I think this
is a sentence that reflects that, " she said.
As part of his probation, Wooley must undergo psychiatric evaluation and
will be banned from working in a museum as a curator; entering any
Historical Society building; or buying, selling, collecting or trading any
Native American artifacts."
© Copyright 2001 Associated Press
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]:
In the Native burial situation, the Native view -- always in an explicitly
religious context -- is virtually universal: Native remains are extremely
important -- are sacrosanct, must be handled with the greatest respect, and
must be properly interred or otherwise properly placed.
[From Fall 1973 through Fall 1976, I was a professor in the Graduate Program
in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa, Iowa City -- and
also much involved in Native matters in the region. The protection of Native
burials [ an issue throughout Indian country] was an especially burning,
very volatile situation in Iowa when I arrived. This was in part due to the
offensive practices of the old State Archaeologist [based at the University]
whose polarizing impact, vis-a-vis the Native tribes and communities, was of
such notoriety that he was singled out for special [and quite justified
attack] by the Sioux writer, Vine Deloria, Jr. in his book, Custer Died For
Your Sins. The old official was finally pushed into retirement about the
time I joined the UI faculty.]
In this extremely acrimonious Iowa situation in the early and mid-1970s, we
were very fortunate that the new State Archaeologist [who replaced the
utterly reactionary dinosaur] was explicitly committed to working with the
Native tribes and communities in the state. His Indian Advisory
Committee -- myself [Iroquois/Abenaki], Maria Thompson Pearson [Santee],
and Don Wanatee [Mesquakie] -- spent a vast amount
of time visiting and consulting Native tribes and communities [and very
much the elders] not only within Iowa, but in the regions adjacent to Iowa .
The resultant legislation, strong and with teeth, has a variety of
protections for Native burials -- and, for certain situations in which the
specific tribe cannot be identified, set up a closed, state cemetery with
appropriate and on-going Native involvement. The Iowa Assembly
[legislature] and the governor were constructively responsive. The
precedent-setting resolution of this issue in Iowa -- which had been a sometimes violent storm center of Native burial controversy -- provided example and guidelines for other states and played a role in shaping the Federal protective legislation which emerged in 1989 and 1990.
In the United States, by the late 1980s, it was clear that over 600,000
Native skeletal remains were in the hands of non-Indian institutions. Quite
rightly indeed, the issue boiled. Congress passed, in 1989, the National
Museum of the American Indian Act which mandated that the Smithsonian --
which held about 20,000 Native skeletal remains -- set up a special Native
American unit within the Museum and, very importantly, began in a variety of
ways, the return of the Native remains to their respective tribes. This was
followed in 1990 by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation
Act which essentially requires that any Native remains held in the Federal
context -- i.e., Federal agencies or any agency receiving Federal
funds --will be returned to the respective Native tribe.
More on Native issues as we travel along.
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Left Discussion Group
ALCOHOL AND PEYOTE AND NATIVE AMERICANS [Hunter Gray 11/16/01] UPDATED
UPDATE NOTE 4/13/06:
CONTEMPORARY NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
Sam Friedman has sent me a quite recent article on the arrest of a Navajo
family for selling meth -- along with an accompanying letter from a Santa
Fe-based colleague of his. The "drug thing" is relatively new in Indian
County -- sharply inhibited by ingrained cultural conservatism as well as
the unfortunate "escape of choice" for too many of our people: easily
obtained alcohol. But drug usage -- from which I explicitly exempt
religious use of peyote -- has increased somewhat among Native people in the
past generation, especially in the younger echelons. The development of
still rather rare Native youth gangs -- almost unknown a generation ago in
reservation and urban Indian settings -- has grown mostly out of hostile and
discriminatory predominately non-Indian "border town" and tough urban
environments. An initial and still basic causal factor is self-defense
against non-Indian youth gangs. Native youth gang development and drug
usage obviously correlate at various points. In addition, the more general
challenges faced by Native people today which have long fostered alcohol
abuse play an obvious role in the matter of drug usage -- among them, the
complex pattern of racial and cultural discrimination emanating from the
Anglo world, economic vicissitudes [unemployment, sub-employment],
reservation boredom. [For a fine discussion of all of this -- and for the
basic individual and socio-cultural endurance and perseverance of Native
people everywhere -- see the excellent and relatively recent Sundance film,
After my own youthful experiences, I have been a mostly total abstainer from
alcohol -- and haven't had a drink of any kind in more than a quarter
century. [I can easily go into a bar with friends and have "soda pop" or
coffee. [I have never used drugs.] My father died of long-term classic
alcoholism and, early on, my mother plunged into it. There have been other
sad stories in the family from which I come. Our own family -- mine --
virtually never drinks anything much although Eldri [a Lutheran clergyman's
daughter] occasionally has a drink of Jim Beam. [Hunter Bear]
This is simply a friendly clarification regarding
American drinking -- but especially a clarifying discussion of Native use of
peyote. While I don't know everyone on our good list, it's possible that I
may be [outside of several of my own family members ] the only Native person
on RedBadBear. In any case, I'll assume that I'm the Resident Indian.
In "Pre-Columbian" times there were, of course, many thousands of Native
tribal nations in the Western Hemisphere -- each a sovereign entity with its
own distinctive national culture [total way of life.] Today, after what
could be almost a hundred million Native deaths, between 1500 and 2000, as a
result of the European incursion, there are still thousands of very
solid and stable Native tribal societies in the Hemisphere which rightly
perceive of themselves as sovereign [although much of this sovereignty has
been functionally eroded by the Euro-Americans]; and whose basic cultures
are still, despite considerable acculturation, essentially intact. This is
the case in the United States where there are presently about 600 tribal
There is no evidence that use of alcoholic beverages was either widespread
or frequent in the "old time." Some tribes, a minority as far as we know,
did have very weak alcoholic beverages [ e.g., Apache "tiswin".] But these
were tantamount to 3.2 beer and nothing stronger. When the Europeans came, with really strong stuff -- e.g., rum -- the Natives had no cultural
controls in place for its usage and things for them moved into disastrous
realms, liquor-wise. This was especially the case when strong alcohol was
so frequently used by the Whites in a deliberately Machiavellian --
genocidal -- fashion: given to the Indians in order to kill, subdue, or cheat them.
I certainly hold the European incursion "and all
its works" directly
responsible for Native alcohol problems in the First Cause sense. I do, of
course, recognize that individuals [Native and otherwise] have a clear
responsibility to avoid this disastrous canyon plunge or/and to return from it. I should add that, assisting Native people in dealing with alcohol, has been something on which I've been focused for almost my entire life -- wherever I've been. In some instances this has involved formal programs [e.g., I was Vice-Chair for a long time of the all-Indian Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Treatment Program [ADAPT] at Chicago] -- and this work has also involved a vast amount of my volunteer time [ much at night.]
And, in situations where tribal nations were and are going through a very
difficult period of adjustment vis-a-vis the increasingly looming Anglo
world [e.g., the Iroquois in the latter 1700s into the first part of the
1800s, or the Navajo of today] alcohol usage can be heavy and catastrophic.
To a great extent, the Iroquois pulled out of this -- very much via cultural
revival and especially the rejuvenation of the traditional Longhouse
religion through the teachings of the Seneca prophet, Handsome Lake -- and
also by finding meaningful and challenging work in, among other things, the Western fur trade and then in the still very wide-spread high steel construction trade. [Always very good union activists!]
The most sedate bar in Rochester, New York, in the latter 1970s, was the
Blue and White -- an all-Indian [mostly Mohawk] establishment. I often did
much of my paperwork, as Diocesan director of social justice, in that always
quiet, pleasant setting where the only music was traditional Iroquois and
where only once do I recall a voice being raised.
The Navajo are working through things at this present moment and it's been
very tough and tragic. But they -- the Navajo -- or Dine' [as they call
themselves, meaning "The People"] -- are making it right along.
There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Native Americans are
racially vulnerable to alcohol in the genetic sense.
And now to Peyote [Peyohtay or Peyoht]:
This is the mildly mescaline root from the mescal plant of the northern
Mexican highlands. Bitter tasting, it produces a dream-like, hallucinogenic
state -- actually very mild in nature. Until the latter 1800s, its usage in
what is now called the United States was restricted to the extreme southern
portions of the Southern Plains and Southwest and it was utilized nowhere
But, to make my most basic point of all, peyote was always traditionally
used solely -- I repeat solely -- for carefully controlled religious
ceremonials. And that is universally the case among Native American people
today. It is never used for recreational purposes by the Indians. It is
The period from 1890 [and the Wounded Knee Massacre] into the 1930s was the nadir -- the lowest point of all historically -- for Native people in the
United States. It was during this period, with the Native tribal religions
under relentless Federal attack, that the use of peyote -- as this very
special sacrament -- in essentially secret ceremonies, began to spread
northward through the Plains and across much of the Southwest, then into the
Great Lakes country and the Intermountain West. [It did not reach the East.] Attacked with venom by the Federal government and most Christian missionaries -- and sometimes by Native traditional leaders -- the peyote groups persevered and eventually joined together in several loose associations which all carry the name, Native American Church.
Two basic versions of the Peyote Faith emerged: The theology of the
Plains/Midwest/Lakes/parts of the Rockies -- in which many Christian
elements are mixed with the local tribal cultures [the Winnebago of Nebraska
and Wisconsin being a prime case in point]; and the Southwestern version
which almost completely reflects the particular tribal culture involved
[e.g., Navajo] and in which Christianity is quite minimal. In a great many
Native settings, of course, the traditional religions are doing very nicely
in their own right -- and one always finds, too, various Christian
denominations in Indian Country.
Although not an NAC member, I am familiar with the intricate NAC ritual
which begins at dusk on a Saturday night and concludes at dawn on Sunday
And again, peyote -- "a way to see and feel God" -- is always used with
great respect and under strict controls -- by all Native people.
The onset of FDR's New Deal era in 1933 included the Indian New Deal of John
Collier [backed up always by that most admirable human being, Eleanor
Roosevelt]. A major piece of the Indian New Deal was the reversal of the
generations-old Federal et al. policy -- happily unsuccessful owning to the
stalwart resistance and recalcitrance and tenacity of Indian people -- of
attempted assimilation [designed to break Federal treaty obligations and
secure remaining Indian land and resources.] Instead, the Indian New Deal
took the position -- quite rightly indeed! -- that Native tribal societies
and cultures are viable and vigorous entities which should be safeguarded
and enhanced. As part of this, Collier ended the Federal attacks on Native
religions -- including the Native American Church groups. [Many years later,
the 1978 Indian Religious Freedom Act strengthened all of this.]
But the Peyote Faith continued to face all sorts of trials and
tribulations -- and still does. In the late 1950s, Coconino County [my home
county] authorities out of Flagstaff arrested, on state anti-peyote
charges, a number of Navajo people who were performing a peyote ceremony on state jurisdiction not far from the Reservation border. But, in 1960, a
local judge ruled in the case -- the Attakai decision -- that peyote use
was permissible because these were Indians using peyote for religious
A major peyote case developed in North Dakota in 1984 -- in which I was
very deeply involved. State authorities seized John Warner [an Anglo] and
his wife, Frances [ a Mexican-American] on the Devils Lake Sioux Reservation
[Ft Totten], [now called the Spirit Lake Sioux] and confiscated a large
quantity of peyote from their home.
But these were the realities:
Both John [Jack] Warner -- who had been raised on the Reservation -- and his
wife were formal members of a local Native American Church congregation.
They had been received into the Church many years before by a prominent
peyote religious leader, Emerson Spider. The large quantity of peyote in
the Warner home was there because the Warners had been formally designated
by the Sioux congregation as the Keepers of the Sacrament.
Caught up in the Reagan drug/witch-hunt, Federal authorities immediately
took the case away from the state attorney general [a man less reactionary
than he was just plain ignorant], and charged the Warners with various
Federal felony crimes. They were released, against Federal wishes, on their
own recognizance. Mrs Warner was immediately fired from her state job as an
alcohol and drug counselor.
I -- the only Native professor at University of North Dakota [Grand
Forks] -- heard about this bizarre situation right away. I immediately
called the US Attorney, Rodney Webb, who was responsible. I had our very
capable Indian Studies secretary of that era, Carol Gourneau [Turtle
Mountain Chippewa] on another phone -- and Webb had one of his assistants on a second phone on his end. We fought for an hour -- Carol often saying
through the years that she had never known before that how angry I could
get. I pointed out to Webb, again and again, that this was a gross
violation of the First Amendment, an obvious violation of the 1970 Federal
Drug Control Act which specifically exempts the religious use of peyote
[and says nothing about race], a clear violation of the Indian Religious
Freedom Act of 1978.
His position was that the Warners were non-Indian and had no right to use
peyote at any time or in any setting. [Mrs Warner, of course, as a person of
Mexican descent had obvious Indian ancestry.]
I told this US Attorney that he was putting the Federal government in a
position where it was trying to tell a church congregation [the local NAC
group at Ft Totten] just who it could have and not have as members: i.e.,
the US government was seeking to dictate Church membership policy.
He told me, "There are less than 20 people in that church."
And I told him, "Jesus started with fewer."
That ended that. I immediately organized a large defense committee --
Indian and non-Indian -- and served as its coordinator. With the help of an
ever-faithful colleague, Professor Doug Wills [Humanities], we sought and
secured major assistance from the national ACLU. Two courageous local
lawyers entered the fray -- Kevin Spaeth and David Thompson -- and ACLU sent
a top defense lawyer, Jud Golden, from Boulder. We spent weeks preparing the
defense: sought and secured top witnesses nationally -- including the
well-known anthropologist, Omer Stewart, from University of Colorado who,
although an Anglo, was himself an NAC member. A number of prominent Native religious leaders readily agreed to come.
FBI agents were thick as fleas everywhere.
The Warner trial took place in US District Court at Grand Forks in late
October and early November, 1984. Judge Paul Benson -- who had presided at
Fargo over the Leonard Peltier frameup -- was in charge of this affair. The
prosecution was obviously confident.
The atmosphere -- many, many people [ Warner supporters, media, observers,
curious, witnesses] from all parts of the country -- was probably a little
like the Scopes Trial. Grand Forks was full of Indians. When the jury was
picked, we had twelve Anglos -- half of them Catholic and the other half
[A faithful observer at the trial was Lisa Carney, then a UND student of
mine, and presently a member of this List.]
The testimony was fascinating -- a major education in Native theologies,
peyote, the Native American Church, conflicting Federal policies. The
testimony given by the Warners was so obviously sincere that even hostile
Judge Benson was visibly taken aback.
And defense constantly reminded the jurors that Catholics and Lutherans take communion wine as a sacrament.
When the Jury received the case, they stayed out only long enough to get
supper-on-the-Feds. They then came back with a Not Guilty.
It was one of Rodney Webb's very few defeats. The Federal government, it
turned out, had spent a quarter of a million trying to convict the
Warners -- and the defense spent about half that [and was duly compensated
by the government.] Later, when prosecutor Webb was nominated for a Federal judgeship, we strongly opposed this -- but got little support from a pliant US Senate.
I wrote extensively about the Warner case in an article -- "Their Long
Travail" -- which was published by Liberty: A Magazine of Religious Freedom
We also helped Mrs Warner bring suit to regain her state job as an alcohol and drug counselor. A conservativeFederal judge, Pat Conmy [a Reagan appointee], ruled in her favor -- but we lost at the Circuit level and lacked the resources to carry the case to the US Supreme Court.
The Warners survived. It was tough for them -- but the basic victory was
Since then, although it remains on pretty safe ground, there have been new
legal conflicts around peyote -- but this great sacrament, always used
carefully under very controlled circumstances in the Native religious
settings -- continues to bring as many as 300,000 Native people in the United
States "very close to God."
Hunter [Hunter Bear]
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
Left Discussion Group