Reward Rises to $20K for Info Leading to Stolen Artifacts

MOUNDVILLE, Ala. (AP) _ The reward for information leading to the recovery of more 260 artifacts stolen from Moundville Archaeological Park decades ago has been increased from $15,000 to $20,000.

Dr. Jim Knight, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Alabama, said several private citizens who hope to see the artifacts returned are offering the reward. reports Knight said 264 pottery vessels and other artifacts were stolen from the Erskine Ramsay Archaeological Repository in 1980. An appraisal revealed the artifacts _ jars, bottles, bowls, ornaments and jewelry _ are worth around $1 million. Since the theft, none has shown up for sale or trade, leading Knight to believe the collection may still be intact.

``With the availability of the internet, it is now possible to distribute these photographs much more widely than was previously feasible. Also, Native American pottery vessels are now routinely sold in internet auctions,'' Knight told The Tuscaloosa News . ``These can be monitored by a public aware of this 40-year-old crime and the great need to reunite these rare artifacts with the citizens of Alabama and the South.

``The reward, together with advancements in technology that allow for the rapid dissemination of information by news outlets and social media, offer new hope in an effort to recover the artifacts.''

At the time, the stolen items represented about 70 percent of the museum's exhibit-quality artifacts and 20 percent of the entire Moundville vessel collection that was curated by the Alabama Museum of Natural History. Experts believe the thieves were knowledgeable about the artifacts because they targeted the highest-quality pieces.

Excavated in the 1930s, the artifacts are high-quality engraved or painted ceremonial pots and bowls, some which held food offerings that were buried with the dead. Others were ordinary cooking pots, bottles and shell jewelry. Many of the vessel engravings depict supernatural creatures, such as the flying serpent, which would guard a person's passage into the afterlife. The designs were highly distinctive of Moundville, which is considered a world heritage site. The Mississippian Indians settled in what is now the Moundville area at the beginning of the 11th century. The area reached its peak activity and population around the year 1300 when it had about 1,000 residents. About 10,000 resided in the entire Black Warrior Valley floodplain at the time.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act makes it illegal to sell human remains or cultural artifacts of Native Americans unless a person legally owns the item. Collectors pay millions for antiquities such as the Moundville vessels, Knight said in a 2003 interview with The Tuscaloosa News.

The Alabama Museum of Natural History has established a tipline at 205-348-2800 that will allow those with information about the thefts to leave confidential messages or information.

For more information, including photographs of the artifacts, visit


Discovery of Native American Remains Increase in Nantucket

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) _ The discovery of Native American remains has been increasing in one town on Cape Cod.

A flux of development means many previously undisturbed parts of Nantucket are being dug up, revealing hints of the town's first inhabitants.

The most recent occurred this spring, reports the Cape Cod Times, when a contractor uncovered a skull while digging a hole for a new foundation. The skull was determined to be one of the island's Native occupiers. An exact number of town discoveries and locations have not been made available by the state.

Nantucket police say that in recent years, they've gotten calls up to six times a year about remains. Purposely disturbing a Native burial site, or failing to report one found is a violation of the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.


Information from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times,


Pamunkey Tribe Considering $700 Million Casino in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The Pamunkey Indian Tribe is considering whether to build a $700 million resort and casino in Virginia.

Media outlets report that the tribe is looking at potential sites for the project but has no definitive plans.

The Department of Interior granted federal recognition to the Pamunkey in 2015, allowing the possibility of casinos through a separate approval process. Virginia currently has no casinos.

The Pamunkey's bid for federal recognition was opposed by MGM Resorts, which runs a new casino just outside the nation's capital in Maryland.

The tribe was considered the most powerful in the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom, which greeted the English settlers at Jamestown, and claims Pocahontas among its lineage.


Native corporation to work for the Navy at Guantanamo Bay

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ An Alaska Native corporation will soon provide support services for the U.S. Navy in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corp. won the $18 million contract earlier this month, CoastAlaska News reported .

The corporation will manage maintenance services, port operations and waterfront administration for the base. The corporation announced a similar, $44 million contract about a week earlier for the U.S. Marine Corps air station in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corp. officials said it employs about 600 people. Most of the jobs are in other parts of the country. But the corporation's hiring policy includes a preference for tribal members.

Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corp. is owned by the Juneau-based Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. The council lists more than 30,000 tribal members in Southeast, the rest of Alaska and around the nation and the world. Its business operations are separate from those of Native corporations formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Corporation CEO Richard Rinehart said the corporation continues to seek more work.

``I look at it as it's like long-lining,'' Rinehart said. ``We have all these lines out with lots of hooks. And we're out there fishing and by having more lines in the water, we're hopeful to bring more home.''


University groups keeping indigenous languages alive 

The Seattle Times

SEATTLE (AP) _ When Alyssa Johnston and members of her tribe speak to one another in Quinault, they are often moved to tears by the knowledge that, at the turn of the century, the language was all but dead.

The last person who spoke fluent Quinault passed away in 1996. By using recordings of those who spoke the language in the 1960s, a handful of people in the Olympic Peninsula tribe are slowly and painstakingly piecing it back together _ and teaching it to a new generation.

Last year, Johnston was the first person in recent memory to earn a world-language credit at the University of Washington by showing she had achieved ``intermediate low-level proficiency'' in that language.

``It's everything to me,'' Johnston said of the importance of reviving her tribe's native tongue. ``Language is culture,'' she said, and the tribe ``right now is literally making history'' by bringing it back.

That history is also being written on the UW's Seattle campus.

Every two weeks, two separate groups gather around a table in one building or another to practice one of two indigenous languages: Southern Lushootseed, the common tongue of the Native American tribes that lived in this region, and Hawaiian, the native language of the indigenous people of Hawaii.

Chris Teuton, chair of American Indian Studies at the UW, hopes students eventually will be able to learn both those languages in for-credit courses, joining the 55 other languages already taught by the university.

In the meantime, the informal classes are a labor of love for the volunteers who teach them. Nancy Jo Bob, a member of the Lummi Nation, and Tami Kay Hohn, of the Puyallup Tribe, both drive up from Auburn every month to offer several hours of language instruction, using a system they devised that helps students think and speak in complete sentences from the outset.

Lushootseed was revived by Upper Skagit author, teacher and linguist Vi Hilbert, who died in 2008 at the age of 90. Hilbert taught Lushootseed for credit at the UW until her retirement in 1988, and it has been taught intermittently at the university since then, along with Navajo and Yakama.

Lushootseed's sentence structure is different from English, and includes sounds that don't exist in English.

``It's like my tongue is tap-dancing,'' one speaker marveled during a recent language table session.

Sentences start with a verb, rather than a subject, and the form the verb takes, gives information about the manner and time of action, said UW English Professor Colette Moore, who is taking part in the language table.

``By the time a speaker gets to the subject in a Lushootseed sentence,'' she said, ``he or she has already given a lot of other information.''

The language's history in the Puget Sound area dates back thousands of years. English, in contrast, has been spoken around here for fewer than 250.

``Sometimes it can be a perspective shift for students to see English as an immigrant language,'' Moore added, ``but, of course, it is.''


America's past is threaded with a long, ugly history of white settlers separating Native Americans from their languages and cultures. In the 1900s, many Native American children were sent to boarding schools, where they were forced to speak only English.

Johnston, of the Quinault tribe, says her grandfather spoke the language, and her mother asked him to teach it to her. But he refused _ the older generation feared their children wouldn't be successful if they spoke a Native American language, she said.

``By revitalizing languages, that's part of the healing process,'' said Teuton, who is Cherokee and began learning that language at the University of North Carolina, where he taught before he came to the UW. ``We are trying to recover from that colonial history.''

Native American knowledge, he said, ``is really grounded in our language _ the grounding of stories, our storytelling traditions, our words for the natural world, words that describe our social relations.''

Language is also a vital cultural connection for many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, said Manuhuia Barcham, a UW lecturer who helped organize the Hawaiian language table. Barcham hopes to also start one for Samoan and Chamorro, which is spoken in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Both Pacific Islander and Native American populations have low levels of enrollment in higher education, and part of the goal of teaching languages is to make the UW ``a more open and friendly space for our youth and our community,'' he said.

Among the state's other higher-education institutions, Lushootseed has been taught at Pacific Lutheran University and at the UW Tacoma, as part of a summer institute. Wenatchee Valley College in Omak teaches Salish; the Northwest Indian College in Bellingham teaches Native American languages.


Johnston learned Quinault from Cosette Terry-itewaste, a linguist who is her tribe's most fluent speaker, and who was able to administer the test that allowed Johnston to get UW credit for knowing that language.

The UW requires entering students to have completed two years of a foreign language in high school, and to take a third quarter while in college _ or to demonstrate that they have acquired ``intermediate low-level proficiency'' in a language other than English.

The university had to create a new way to test proficiency in languages that are not commonly taught.

``This provides an academic incentive and establishes it as an equal language, a world language,'' said Russell Hugo, a linguist in the UW's language learning center. ``Hopefully more students can do this, so we can build stronger ties of support and recognition'' for local indigenous languages.

Because she lives on the Olympic Peninsula and works full time with two young children at home, Johnston earned her undergraduate degree from the UW mostly online. She's certified as a language apprentice, and she will be helping the Quinault tribe launch family language classes in January.

While some tribal members grew up knowing the Quinault words for colors and other nouns, these language classes aim to teach them how to have simple conversations.

``It's amazing how it's been almost lost,'' Johnston said. ``I can feel it getting back to normal, and that's a really sacred thing.''


Information from: The Seattle Times,


Restoration of protections for Yellowstone grizzlies urged

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ Conservationists and a Montana Indian tribe have asked a judge to restore protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears in light of a recent ruling in a case involving Great Lakes wolves.

The request by three conservation groups and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe was lodged on Monday in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Federal officials in December announced a review of their July 31 decision to lift protections for an estimated 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park. The review was prompted by the Great Lakes wolf ruling, which indicated in part that more consideration needed to be given to a species' loss of historical territory.

Attorneys for the conservation groups and tribe say the grizzly review is being improperly used as an after-the-fact justification for lifting protections.

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