Arapaho Student Reunites with Tribal Headdress at UW
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.
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, that went the extra mile to get permission from the British Museum to see the headdress. They believe that the headdress was likely taken from the tribe during the filming of the 1923 silent film “The Covered Wagon.”
After almost a hundred years of the headdress being away from home, White Eagle-SoundingSides became the first Arapaho to see it again.
“I felt that sorrow in my heart because the headdress is not where it belongs,” White Eagle-SoundingSides says.
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 repatriate cultural items that were often taken without a community’s knowledge or permission.
Chief Yellow Calf (1861-1938) is considered one of the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s most important and respected leaders in its history, and White Eagle-SoundingSides, alongside 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 says. “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.”