Eric Hemenway: Cultural preservation at Little Traverse
"My name is Eric Hemenway and I am an Anishnaabe/Odawa from Cross Village. I work in the Archive/Records and Cultural Preservation Department for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians here in Emmet County. I am very fortunate to have such a diverse job that involves cultural preservation for my tribe — but cultural preservation is a very broad term that covers many different areas. One aspect of the Odawa culture that I focus on in my work is the caretaking for our dead. Respecting and honoring our ancestors who have passed on is a fundamental element of our identity as Odawa and has been with our tribe for countless generations. I have the opportunity to carry on this tradition in a unique way by working in my department.

The federal law NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) enables tribes to reclaim human remains and sacred items associated to their respective tribal communities. These remains and items are housed in museums and universities throughout the country. What I do is locate where the remains are, submit claims and if all goes well, retrieve the remains and rebury them. We also submit claims for sacred items affiliated to our tribe. Repatriating remains is a difficult task, but a necessary one, because it ties in with our belief the dead need to be taken care of. This is a new dilemma tribes across the country have to deal with, having their ancestors taken from their final resting places and placed in boxes on shelves, to be examined and documented in manners the tribes deem as inappropriate and disrespectful. But we have the opportunity to get these old ones back and we at LTBB Odawa have made it a priority to do so. It's sad yet rewarding work. Sad to know the history of how museums acquired these remains and the fact our dead were not given the proper respect as groups, yet rewarding to finally lay them to rest, again, and finally see our beliefs being recognized."

Get the Story:
Eric Hemenway: The diverse field of cultural preservation (The Petoskey News 3/13)