Northern Arapaho leaders demand Harvard museum return hair samples taken from Arapaho, other indigenous people

    (Ethete, WY) – The Northern Arapaho Business Council calls on Harvard University and its Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology to return hair clippings and samples improperly taken decades ago from an estimated 700 Native children, including members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe.

    The Peabody hair samples were confiscated during the 1930s from Native students forced to attend U.S. boarding schools, a shameful practice that involved separating these children from their families, language and culture. The federal government operated hundreds of these boarding schools, up until about 1970, in order to forcefully assimilate Native children into white culture.

    Though hair clippings were ostensibly removed and kept for research purposes, Peabody Museum now acknowledges “much of this work was carried out to support, directly or indirectly, scientific racism. Descriptions and measurements of hair types were used to justify racial categories and hierarchies.”


    Peabody Museum’s collection includes hair clippings from individuals hailing from approximately 100 tribes and tribal communities.

    “It is impossible to undo atrocities committed against Native children ripped away from their families as part of the federal government’s forced boarding program, but Peabody Museum can and must cease its role in this abuse by returning to appropriate tribes any hair samples taken from these children,” the Northern Arapaho Business Council said in a joint statement. “It is long past time that museums, universities and other institutions apologize for their objectification of Native people and culture and return to rightful owners the sacred artifacts stolen from Indian Country.”


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