MDAH Awarded $77,000 Federal Grant For Use with
Native American Collection

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has been awarded a federal grant of more than $75,000 to help catalog the agency’s collection of Native American artifacts and begin the process of returning items from the collection to the appropriate tribes. The grant will help the department catalog the Moreau B.C. Chambers Collection, long thought to have been lost in a fire but recently returned to MDAH.

The grant comes through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) program. The act is a federal law passed in 1990 that provides a process for museums and federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items—human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony—to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes.

The $77,462 grant will be used to train staff on NAGPRA procedures, hold on-site meetings with Indian tribes that are culturally affiliated with the state, and catalog and digitize MDAH’s archaeological collection, beginning with the Chambers collection.

Some of the department’s catalog information can only be found in written hardbound ledgers. The newly cataloged collection will give the department a state-of-the-art computerized inventory in a digital management system. With the new system, MDAH will eventually have the capability for tribes to access the collection via the Web.

The department is the official repository for the state’s Native American collection, most of which dates to times before Europeans came to the Americas. Of the more than 1,700 items in the Native American collection, more than 225 are human skeletal remains. The uncataloged Chambers collection consists of more than 6,000 items.

During the 1930s, MDAH archaeologist Moreau B.C. Chambers collected a large pre-contact and proto-historic collection from Native American sites throughout Mississippi. The collection was thought to have been lost in a warehouse fire more than sixty years ago. It was recently discovered at the Museum of Man at Louisiana State University and returned to MDAH.

Carrie V. Wilson will serve as consultant during the grant period. Wilson will conduct training workshops, work on planning for the on-site consultation visits with the tribes, review the draft interim reports and associated materials, and critique the final report and its associated deliverables.

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