Lakota chief seeks return of artifacts from Barre Museum Association

  • On Wednesday, Lakota Chief Henry Red Cloud will officially ask the Barre Museum Association’s board of directors to return sacred objects to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples. Contributed photo

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 4/1/2022 3:29:18 PM
Modified: 4/1/2022 3:28:49 PM

BARRE — On Dec. 29, 1890, a portion of the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment surrounded several hundred Lakota people at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, ostensibly in an attempt to disarm the Native Americans. No one is sure who fired the first shot, but the troopers opened fire on the encircled Lakota and, when the shooting was over, some 300 men, women and children lay dead in the snow. Thirty-five soldiers were killed.

The incident became known as the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

After the bloodletting, gravediggers reportedly stripped possessions from the bodies of the dead and buried them in locations where they could eventually be retrieved. Some of the items found their way to the Barre area, where they were sold to Frank Root, a local resident. They are currently housed in the Barre Museum Association, located at 19 Pleasant St.

On Wednesday, April 6, Chief Henry Red Cloud, the great-great-grandson of Chief Red Cloud, will visit the collection of artifacts, remains and sacred objects taken from Wounded Knee and will officially ask the Barre Museum Association’s board of directors to return the items to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples.

Chief Henry Red Cloud is the direct fifth generation descendant of Chief Red Cloud, one of the last Lakota war chiefs and one of the most famous Native Americans in history. Henry was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota Nation, where living conditions are extremely difficult. For more than a decade, Henry has devoted himself to developing his expertise with renewable energy applications that are environmentally sound, economically beneficial, and culturally appropriate.

At 2:30 p.m. on the afternoon of April 6, tribal elders from Massachusetts and surrounding states will officially welcome Henry to the area during an event at Barre Town Hall, 40 West St. According to a press release, he will answer questions and discuss the dawning of “a new era in regards to Native Americans. Chief Red Cloud will share the perspective of his great-great-grandfather on our current state of affairs and how we, as a world, are in the time of the seventh generation. This is the time for all people of the world to work together for the good of the planet.”

Petersham resident Larry Buell, founder of University of the Wild in Petersham, has been part of the planning for Chief Red Cloud’s visit. Buell has worked closely with Nipmuc Cultural Preservation, Inc. and has been involved in transferring land back to the Nipmuc tribe. Leaders of the tribe will be among those welcoming Chief Red Cloud to Barre.

Buell said the return of the artifacts to the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota is more than a simple return of property to its rightful owners.

“The indigenous people,” he said, “talk about how every object, every artifact there — and they talk about three things, artifacts, body parts, and sacred objects — and so each of these objects, whether it’s a golden eagle feather or anything else, they have energy. They feel the energy can be blocked in these objects if they’re not properly transferred to the spirit world. Until that gets done, there is some healing that has not occurred. The traumas are being passed down because they’re now fifth-generation.”

Buell said Chief Red Cloud and local tribal elders hope his visit marks the start of a movement toward returning sacred objects to indigenous people.

“What they hope this will be is a model and a template for other organizations, other museums, to do the same,” he said. “I think we in the North Quabbin have to look at that. Historical societies have tremendous collections. The Bill Ellsworth collection of artifacts from the Quabbin is probably one of the most comprehensive ones that exist. So, I think that’s a key thing.”

Greg Vine can be reached at

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