Harvard Admits Proudly owning Hair Samples of 700 Native American College students
Harvard College’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology disclosed this week that for over 80 years, it has held a big assortment of hair samples that have been taken from round 700 Native American college students compelled to attend government-sponsored residential faculties within the early twentieth century. In a November 10 assertion, the museum apologized to Indigenous tribal nations and descendants for its “complicity within the objectification of Native peoples,” and indicated that it had initiated the method of returning samples to households and tribes.
Taken between 1930 and 1933, the hair samples — which a spokesperson for the museum stated have by no means been publicly displayed — have been gathered by lecturer and analysis fellow in anthropology at Harvard George Edward Woodbury and donated to the museum in 1935.
“For the reason that occasions of Herodotus and Aristotle and even earlier than, the outward look of the hair has been acknowledged as one of the crucial distinctive of racial standards,” Woodbury wrote in his 1932 publication entitled “Variations Between Sure of the North American Indian Tribes as Proven by a Microscopical Research of Their Head Hair.”
“A lot of this work was carried out to help, straight or not directly, scientific racism,” the Peabody Museum explains in an outline of the gathering. “Descriptions and measurements of hair sorts have been used to justify racial classes and hierarchies.”
Earlier this yr, the Division of Inside launched a report detailing the historical past of compelled state-sponsored efforts to assimilate Native Individuals. This systematic erasure of Indigenous traditions and id — which some have described as cultural genocide — came about by way of the violent separation of youngsters from their households, their relocation to boarding faculties, and bans on the usage of their languages. Among the many many indignities that college students suffered at these faculties was the shearing of their hair.
The Nationwide Native American Boarding Faculty Therapeutic Coalition (NABS) launched a assertion responding to revelations on the Peabody Museum.
“The importance of hair to Indigenous peoples has at all times been a deeply sacred one,” NABS wrote. “This, in fact, was additionally identified to Indian boarding faculty directors who systematically lower the hair of Native kids upon processing and enrollment, which makes the hair cuttings held at Harvard’s Peabody Museum deeply advanced and totally horrific to even contemplate.”
“We be a part of our kinfolk in grief,” the coalition added.
The Peabody Museum’s web site now features a web page that catalogs affected tribes and areas the place samples have been collected, together with the Fort Totten Indian Faculty in North Dakota, the Sherman Institute in California, and the US Indian Vocational Faculty in New Mexico.
Information in regards to the hair samples follows a number of latest failures by the college to repatriate objects and stays to their correct house owners. In June, a leaked report revealed that the Peabody Museum held the human stays of no less than 19 individuals who have been doubtless enslaved and virtually 7,000 Native Individuals, and in September, the college pledged to return them.
The Peabody additionally continues to carry daguerreotypes of the enslaved ancestors of Tamara Lanier, who has waged a tireless marketing campaign for his or her return.
NABS’s assertion concludes with calls for that Harvard “deepen their understanding and take accountability,” “work with Tribes in good religion towards the return of all supplies,” and “instantly tackle and prioritize the repatriation … of the remaining Ancestors and burial belongings nonetheless of their possession.”
“On this troublesome time, we’re but once more reminded of the racist and colonial historical past that has straight benefited establishments equivalent to Harvard College,” it reads.
Harvard has not but responded to Hyperallergic’s rapid request for extra remark.