Archive for February, 2019

THE LONG JOURNEYS HOME: the repatriations of Henry Opukaha ia and Albert Afraid of Hawk by Nick Bellantoni

February 15th, 2019

Henry Opukaha ia (ca. 1792–1818), Native Hawaiian, and Itankusun Wanbli (ca. 1879–1900), Oglala Lakota, lived almost a century apart. Yet the cultural circumstances that led them to leave their homelands and eventually die in Connecticut have striking similarities.Opukaha ia was orphaned during the turmoil caused in part by Kamehameha’s wars in Hawai’i and found passage on a ship to New England, where he was introduced and converted to Christianity, becoming the inspiration behind the first Christian missions to Hawai’i. Itankusun Wanbli, Christianized as Albert Afraid of Hawk, performed in Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West” as a way to make a living after his traditional means of sustenance were impacted by American expansionism. Both young men died while on their “journeys” to find fulfillment and both were buried in Connecticut cemeteries. In 1992 and 2008, descendant women had callings that their ancestors “wanted to come home” and began the repatriation process of their physical remains. CT state archaeologist Nick Bellantoni oversaw the archaeological disinterment, forensic identifications and return of their skeletal remains back to their Native communities and families. The Long Journeys Home chronicles these important stories as examples of the wide-reaching impact of American imperialism and colonialism on Indigenous Hawaiian and Lakota traditions and their cultural resurgences, in which the repatriation of these young men have played significant roles. Bellantoni’s excavations, his interaction with two Native families and his participation in their repatriations have given him unique insights into the importance of heritage and family among contemporary Native communities and their common ground with archaeologists. His natural storytelling abilities allow him to share these meaningful stories with a larger general audience.

GPL: 920 Bellanto

THE FEATHER THIEF by Kirk Wallace Johnson

February 1st, 2019

 The Feather Thief has a subtitle:  Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century.  

On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music,twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History.  Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession:  the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying.  Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins—some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them.

Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist-high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist.  He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief.  In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation.  The gripping story of a bizarre & shocking crime, & one man’s restless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of osession, & a man’s destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

Man is seldom content to witness beauty.  He must possess it.  –Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea 1979

GPL: 364.162 Johnson