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The UW Education-Abroad course reunites Arapaho students in tribal

August 1, 2022

Woman standing near headdress

Allison White Eagle Sounding Side, a law student at the University of Washington and a member of the Northern Arapaho, was seen at the British Museum’s vaults near London earlier this summer with her great-grandfather, the leader of the Northern Arapaho. Standing near a headdress that belonged to Chief Yellow Calf. She was the first Arapaho to see a headdress in 100 years. (Darby Clarke photo)

Alison White Eagle Soundingside, a University of Wyoming law student and member of the Northern Arapaho, teamed up with law professor Darrell Jackson and UW Museum director Nicole Crawford to recreate the headdress of her great-grandfather, the Northern Arapaho. I got it from the British Museum. Leader Chief Yellow Calf.

The journey began when White Eagle-SoundingSides signed up for Jackson and Crawford’s European summer course, Stealing Culture: The Intersection of Criminal Law and Museums. Jackson and Crawford have begun working with museums and universities around the world to repatriate cultural items that are often removed without the knowledge or permission of the community.

In the case of the headdress, the tribal elders of White Eagle-Sounding Sides told her that it was most likely taken away from the tribe during the filming of the 1923 silent film The Covered Wagon. According to her research, this headdress she donated to the British Museum in 1939. Since it hadn’t been displayed in the museum since 2001, White’s eagle her sounding side had to get special permission from her, Crawford, and Jackson to see the headdress in the storage facility. Outside London in July of this year. She became the first Arapaho to see a headdress in her 100 years.

“I felt that sadness in my heart because the headdress wasn’t where it should be,” says the White Eagle Sounding Side.

Still, she was very grateful to be able to see it and speak with the curators of the British Museum’s Africa, Oceania and Americas department.

“I went inside and was in awe,” says White Eagle-SoundingSides. “It was beautiful. The feathers and beadwork were perfectly intact. I leaned over to see it, but didn’t touch it. There was long black hair by the tail. I was Yellow Calf and his life.” I kept thinking about how much pride he took in his headdress because it is sacred to us, how much it must have hurt him to lose it. I thought it was something else for our people to take away.

Headdress beadwork closeup

Donated to the British Museum in 1939, the Yellow Calf Chief’s headdress features intricate beadwork and feathers. (Darby Clarke photo)

“The day I saw it was the day our big ceremony, Sundance, started, so I thought about my people and how all of this has affected our lives and where we are now. Adds White Eagle Sounding Side. “I prayed for my people, I prayed for the Yellow Calf. I’m sorry I can’t go home, but I’ll be back someday.” I was so grateful, humbled, and full of gratitude. ”

Chief Yellow Calf (1861-1938) is considered one of the most important and respected leaders in Northern Arapaho history. The Northern Arapaho are one of his four groups of Arapaho who originally occupied the headwaters of the Arkansas and Platte Rivers. After signing the 1851 treaty, the Arapaho and Cheyenne shared land that included one-sixth of Wyoming, one-fourth of Colorado, western Kansas, and parts of Nebraska. Later, when the treaty of 1868 removed the land base from North Arapahoe, they were placed with the Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation in Midwestern Wyoming.

White Eagle-SoundingSides’ husband works for the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Authority, so he’s seen first-hand how repatriation has a positive impact on their community.

“When these things come back, it’s like some of us come back together,” she says. That’s what I want people to do, and that’s why I’ve done what I’ve been doing.”

three people standing side by side

Alyson White Eagle-SoundingSides (middle) is surrounded by UW Art Museum Director Nicole Crawford and UW College of Law Professor Darrell Jackson after being honored by the Northern Arapaho Tribe at last month’s Ethete Celebration Powwow. (Alyson White Eagle-Sounding Sides Photo)

Crawford and the UW Art Museum funded her flight to help the White Eagle-SoundingSides make the trip, and worked with curators at the British Museum to gain permission to view the headdress. Did. The hard work of further research and building a relationship with the British Museum is now underway, perhaps to bring the headdress home one day.

“This is what drives ‘culture stealing’ as a class and as an organization,” says Jackson. “From the day we started, it’s been about boosting the community.”

Jackson and Crawford have been working on a “stealing culture” project for several years now. They taught his 2019 law and honors class on campus, and this summer was the first overseas education edition of the class. They visited museums and historic sites in Scotland, England and Greece, with students giving presentations at each location. They would like to continue the project, but they need to set aside time for it and funding. I found it inspiring and motivating.

The Northern Arapaho tribe presented honor blankets last month in honor of Jackson, Crawford, and University of Washington President Ed Seidel.

“It was amazing to realize that something so small, in this case reaching out to the museum curator, can make a big difference to an entire community,” Crawford says of the experience. .

“It was something I will never forget,” says Jackson. “It was one of the best experiences of my entire career.”

For more information on Stealing Culture, please visit