Woodbridge Hall; Yale and the Mohegan Tribe signed an agreement
that formalized cooperation between the Yale Peabody Museum
of Natural History and the Mohegan Tribe's Tantaquidgeon Museum.
From left: Mohegan Tribal Chair Kevin Brown, Mohegan Chief
Marilynn Malerba, Yale President Peter Salovey.
Yale University and the Mohegan Tribe today finalized an agreement
to transfer hundreds of objects of tribal origin from the Yale Peabody
Museum of Natural History to the tribe's Tantaquidgeon Museum, the
oldest Native American owned and operated museum in the country.
Leaders from Yale and the tribe signed the agreement during
a ceremony in Woodbridge Hall on the university's campus, marking
a new chapter in a collaborative relationship that spans centuries.
before the signing ceremony are (from left) Yale Peabody Museum
Director David Skelly, Malerba, Salovey, and Mohegan Tribal
Council of Elders Chair Laurence Roberge.
"Today we celebrate an exciting moment in the long-standing
relationship between Yale and the Mohegan Tribe," said Chief Many
Hearts Lynn Malerba. "This transfer completes a sacred circle for
us. The Mohegan people are now able to welcome the spirits of Chief
Uncas and Lucy Occum home with the return of these significant cultural
objects. We are joyous at the return of these spiritual objects
and thank Yale University and the Peabody Museum for their thoughtfulness
in creating this unique opportunity."
The agreement comes as the tribe develops a Mohegan Tribal Cultural
Preservation Center to facilitate research and scholarship within
its collection of eastern woodland Indian artifacts.
agreement is the result of collaboration and mutual respect
between a very old Connecticut institution and an ancient
sovereign nation," said Salovey.
"This agreement is the result of collaboration and mutual respect
between a very old Connecticut institution and an ancient sovereign
nation," said Yale President Peter Salovey.
The objects being transferred have been in the Peabody Museum's
collections for decades. They include a wooden succotash bowl from
18th-century Mohegan matriarch Great Lucy Occum, a wooden mortar,
and a doll, as well as hundreds of archaeological objects from Fort
Shantok in Uncasville, Connecticut, the site of a Mohegan settlement
from 1636 to 1682 and the sacred ground of Uncas, the tribe's Great
Sachem. The archaeological objects include stoneware, glass beads,
iron knife blades, and pipe bowls, shells, and bones.
In addition to Salovey and Malerba, the agreement's signatories
include Peabody Museum Director David Skelly, Mohegan Chair Kevin
Brown "Red Eagle," Council of Elders Chair Laurence Roberge, and
Mohegan Medicine Woman and Tribal Historian Melissa Tantaquidgeon
Zobel. Under the agreement, Yale will transfer the objects to the
tribe within 90 days.
the agreement, Yale will transfer hundreds of objects of tribal
origin from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History to
the tribe's Tantaquidgeon Museum.
"You will notice that the signers of this document are traditional
leaders and governmental leaders; both male and female. This is
representative of balance and equality in our relationships with
the local, state and federal government; one that is a time-honored
tradition," said Malerba, who earned a doctorate of nursing practice
from the Yale School of Nursing in 2015.
This agreement signifies the evolution of the long-standing
relationship between Yale and the Mohegan Tribe. During the 1700s,
Yale President Ezra Stiles studied Mohegan language and spirituality.
"I can speak for all of the curators and staff of the museum
in saying that we are very excited to see these objects going to
the Mohegan Tribe," said Skelly. "We have a great partnership with
the leaders of the tribe, and the Tantaquidgeon Museum is a fantastic
institution. We look forward to further collaboration around our
shared interest in the history and future of the Mohegan Tribe."
The institutions have cooperated on the Yale Indian Papers Project
(YIPP), a collaborative research initiative that locates, digitizes,
transcribes, and annotates materials by or about New England Indians,
publishing them as an online resource. In 2014, YIPP researchers
discovered historically significant writings by two noted tribal
cultural figures: Samson Occum, an 18th-century Mohegan minister
and preacher, and Fidelia Smith Fielding, the last known speaker
of the Mohegan Pequot language.
In 1994, the late Gladys Tantaquidgeon, a pioneering anthropologist
and a founder of the tribe's museum, was awarded an honorary degree
the ceremony, Malerba presented a gift from the tribe to Salovey
gift included a bowl created by Mohegan tribal member Justin
Scott, which was embedded with a wampum circle created from
a quahog shell from the Thames river.