My Ancestors Bones Not For Museum

remains-of-chero-nottowaySonya Williams,
Baltimore, MD.

I grew up in a unique area of North Carolina in what is referred to as a ti-racial community. My Indian family are the Cheroenhaka Nottoway and Meherrin Indians of Southeast, VA & North Eastern, NC. When I went to college, during a lecture in my anthropology class, the professor was discussing a dig that took place on the Nottoway River and how 193 bodies were removed and placed in the Smithsonian collection. After the class, I approached the professor and told her I was a member of this tribe, but had never heard about this. This was in 1985 and that knowledge has haunted me every since. I contacted the museum on many occasions and was told by staff that “the Smithsonian does not house human remains.”

I new this wasn’t true, but I had no legal way to get to the information. This went on until President Clinton enacted the, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which forced institutions to return all Native American artifacts and burial remains. After this, the museum did in fact admit to having the bones; however, they will not turn them over to the tribe because the act only covered federally recognized tribes, not state recognized. Therefore, we still wait for our ancestors to be returned to their eternal rest which is promised to all by God, but is being denied to my people. I am currently writing a book to bring attention to this injustice. Not to promote hate of any race, but in hopes that everyone black, white, red, or yellow, can agree that no human remains should be held in museum cases.

Thank you for doing this project. I have so enjoyed the stories. It was hard for me to pick just 6 words. I have many 6 word stories I can tell; being of a multi-race background.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

  • Derek Nicholas

    I hear ya, Sonya. Some of my peeps are of the Monacan Indian tribes from Wingina, Nelson, VA and Amherst, VA – Also not Federally recognized. Three large burial grounds are located at Union Hill, along the James River in Norwood, Nelson VA. Pottery, tools and arrow heads are still turning up on various properties in the area.

 

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