Iconic Headdress Returned To Northern Arapaho Tribe

FORT WASHAKIE, Wyo. (AP) – The headdress of one of the most prominent Northern Arapaho leaders in the tribe’s history has been returned to it in a repatriation ceremony Saturday on the Wind River Reservation.

Chief Black Coal was a fierce warrior who then served as the peace chief for the Northern Arapaho in the latter quarter of the 19th century, including during their move to the Wind River Reservation.

Black Coal gave his headdress to a non-Native dentist who lived in Wyoming and would often travel to the reservation to provide dental care.

The dentist’s great-grandson, who lives in Massachusetts contacted the tribe late last year and offered to give back the headdress, estimated by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office to be more than 140 years old.

Historic Preservation collections manager Jordan Dresser, himself a descendant of Black Coal, says he feels it’s like his ancestor “is coming back to teach us some things.”

Saturday’s ceremony was a chance for tribal members to see the headdress and welcome it back. The headdress has spent the past few weeks at a University of Wyoming lab being disinfected and will return there after tribal consultation for conservation work before it goes on display.

Dresser hopes it can be a prominent part of a museum displaying the culture and history of the Northern Arapaho, where younger generations can learn about their identities and see reflections of themselves in Black Coal’s headdress and other items.

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