MHS returns archaeological artifacts to Bois Forte Band


More than 7,000 archaeological materials as old as 800 to 3000 years were returned to the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in July by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS).

The collection includes stone tools, arrowheads, fragments of ceramic vessels and copper artifacts. The materials were excavated in 1948 from Bois Forte Band tribal land on Nett Lake in Koochiching County without permission from the Band. The artifacts were obtained and held by the University of Minnesota until 1999, when they were turned over to MHS.

Responding to a request from the Bois Forte Tribal Council, MHS has returned the artifacts, some of which may eventually be displayed at the Bois Forte Heritage Museum at Fortune Bay Resort on Lake Vermillion. The museum has the specialized facilities and professional staff to care for the collection.

"The Bois Forte people are the best stewards of our history and the best tellers of our story. The objects are home where they belong, where we can learn from them and use them to educate people about Bois Forte," said Kevin Leecy, Chairman of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.

Before returning the collection to the Band, MHS staff organized, documented and photographed the collection, a project supported by funds from the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Two undergraduate anthropology students from Hamline University in St. Paul assisted with the project as interns.

"We’re pleased to have been able to work with the Band to facilitate the return of this important collection to its proper home. We’re confident the artifacts will continue to be available for study by those interested in the long history of American Indian Culture in Northern Minnesota," said Pat Emerson, MHS Head of Archaeology.

Emerson and MHS Deputy Director Pat Gaarder presented the collection to Chairman Leecy and council members at Fortune Bay Resort.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849.