April 20, 2018
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Museum collections have no human remains

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

BAR HARBOR, Maine — When art buffs and history enthusiasts look for Penobscot Indian artifacts to add to their collections, their gaze tends to fall on things such as etched birch bark, beaded clothing and fancy porcupine quill work.

Not human remains, said Julia Clark, collections manager for the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor.

“Those types of objects just don’t tend to be in museum collections anymore,” Clark said Thursday, the day after she learned of an FBI probe of recent craigslist.com posts advertising Maine Indian scalps.

Clark said she had heard of a somewhat comparable case in American Indian lore.

“There was a human finger that had supposedly belonged to King Philip,” Clark said.

King Philip, or Metacom, was a well-known Algonquian who became leader of the Wampanoag Confederacy in 1662. He fought against English settlers in the bloody, costly conflict that became known as King Philip’s War. That war began in 1775, according to the Web site of the Historical Commission of West Brookfield, Mass.

Metacom was killed in a battle in 1676 and then beheaded. His head was displayed on a pole for 25 years at Plymouth, Mass., according to the historical commission.

“As far as I know, his finger had been repatriated to the tribe he came from,” Clark said.

Carla Fearon, director of the Penobscot Nation Boys and Girls Club on Indian Island, said the grisly craigslist.com post didn’t seem to be on the minds of island children.

“I think this is kind of being kept from them,” Fearon said, “but I’m not sure about that.”

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