MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT - A special necklace with hundreds of years of history is back where it belongs, according to Johnathan Buffalo, historical preservation director with the Meskwaki Nation tribe.
The tribe purchased an historic bear claw necklace recently on auction. The necklace was once used by tribal leaders at Meskwaki (Sac & Fox Tribe) but was sold in the 1940s to a Chicago dentist. One owner later and the Meskwaki tribe has its necklace back.
"To us, it was worth more than money," Buffalo said. "It's our political, cultural inheritance."
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
This necklace made of 31 bear claws is now on display at the Meskwaki Casino. It was bought back by the Meskwaki people after being sold out of the tribe in the 1940s.
It was purchased by the tribe from the estate of David Brown, an affluent man from New Mexico who was a big collector of Indian items.
The necklace was worn by chiefs in the tribe during council meetings or trips to Washington.
Buffalo said it is made from 31 claws of a prairie grizzly, an extinct species.
"They are the biggest claws of any grizzly bear," Buffalo said.
Buffalo said the necklace was nearly lost to a bidder from France.
"We possibly saved it from leaving the country," Buffalo said. "It wouldn't have been just our loss, it would have been the country's loss."
He said having it back in the tribe's possession makes it mean more than if it were owned by a non-tribal member.
"Only the tribe can make it real," Buffalo said.
Buffalo said it's hard to describe the feeling of having it home with the tribe.
"It symbolizes a lot," he said. "The tribal members have been happy that it's back home."
The necklace is currently on display on the history wall at the Meskwaki Casino. Buffalo said it will remain on display at the casino for the next two months and they may eventually move it to the Meskwaki museum as they think about ways to display the item.
A special unveiling ceremony was held at the casino recently and Buffalo has noticed the necklace is catching the eye of the public.
"It's that striking," he said.