Lake County officials likely to give skull, arrowhead to Ho-Chunk Nation

 
 
Updated 8/7/2018 6:28 PM
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  • Nan Buckardt, director of education for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, at the Bess Bower Dunn Museum. The museum will be returning two cultural items to the Ho-Chunk Nation.

    Nan Buckardt, director of education for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, at the Bess Bower Dunn Museum. The museum will be returning two cultural items to the Ho-Chunk Nation. Daily Herald file photo

A human skull and an arrowhead considered part of Native American history will likely be given to Ho-Chunk Nation after 61 years in Lake County.

The items, described as ancestral remains, were uncovered when the former Lake County Discovery Museum was being moved to Libertyville and rebranded as the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.

"We're assuming they had a connection. We don't know the whole story but they're being repatriated together," said Nan Buckardt, director of education for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, which operates the museum.

The Discovery Museum closed in 2016 and Bess Bower opened this past March. A federal law called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requires museums receiving federal funding to return certain Native American cultural items, including human remains.

Once the items were found, the forest preserve district began a detailed process to follow the federal law. That included a 30-day posting in the National Register during which any tribe with a cultural affiliation with the item could claim them.

According to information provided to forest district commissioners, Robert Vogel of the private Lake County History Museum in Wadsworth acquired the items May 23, 1957 from the Moody Museum in Clayton County, Iowa. Ownership transferred to Lake County in 1965 and to the forest preserve district in 1989.

At some unknown time, the items had been removed from an area near Decorah, Iowa, which is part of the aboriginal lands of the Winnebago -- the present day Ho-Chunk Nation and Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

The Dunn museum was contacted by a repatriation officer with the Ho-Chunk Nation. It was the only response during the posting period that ended June 21.

Aside from their origin, there was no other background available on the items, Buckardt said.

The forest board's operations committee approved the measure Monday. The finance committee will consider it Thursday and the full board will vote on it Aug. 14.

"The thing that makes me feel really happy about it is we're taking something somebody thought was a curiosity and closing the circle and getting it back to the proper people to take care of it," she said.

In 2016, remains and related funerary objects were transferred to the Michigan-based Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and in 2017 to the Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians.

The cultural items claimed by Ho-Chunk inadvertently had become separated from others in the museum's possession and are the last items of this type in its collection, according to Buckardt. "We can never be 100 percent certain this person was a Ho-Chunk native," she added, but it was the best information available.

"It's the right thing to do," she said.

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