University of Wyoming College of Law student and Northern Arapaho member Alyson White Eagle-SoundingSides went on a summer course to Europe and reunited with a headdress that belonged to her great-great-grandfather, Northern Arapaho leader Chief Yellow Calf, at the British Museum in London.

“I felt that sorrow in my heart because the headdress is not where it belongs,”

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White Eagle-SoundingSides took a UW Summer course, “Stealing Culture: The Intersection of Criminal Law and Museums,” and worked with law Professor Darrell Jackson and UW Art Museum Director Nicole Crawford to get access to the artifact.

They were able to get permission from the British Museum to see the headdress in person in London. They believe that the headdress was likely taken from the Northern Arapaho during the filming of the 1923 silent film “The Covered Wagon.”

White Eagle-SoundingSides became the first Arapaho to see the headdress in person after nearly a century.

“I felt that sorrow in my heart because the headdress is not where it belongs,” White Eagle-SoundingSides said.

Jackson and Crawford have been working on the “Stealing Culture” project for several years. They both work with museums and universities around the world to return cultural items that were often taken without a community’s knowledge or permission.

The day I got to see it was the day our big ceremony, the sundance, was starting, so I thought about my people and how all of these things have affected our lives and where we’re at today,” White Eagle-SoundingSides added. “I said, ‘I’m sorry you can’t go home today, but you’re going to someday.’ I was so thankful, humbled and filled with gratitude.”

 

Chief Yellow Calf (1861-1938) is considered one of the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s most important and respected leaders in its history. He was from Ethete, Wyoming.

White Eagle-SoundingSides, along with Jackson and Crawford, will try their best to bring the headdress home.

It’s almost like a piece of us gets put back together when these things come back to us,” White Eagle-SoundingSides said. “When they come home, it’s like we get to heal. That’s what I want for my people. That’s why I’ve done what I’ve done so far.”

SOURCE: University of Wyoming

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