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In return, a lesson

In 1915, the Phillips Academy embarked on an unusual endeavor for a secondary school: the excavation of the abandoned Pueblo of Pecos in New Mexico to add to the collection of the school's archaeology museum.

Now, that venture has led the school to set another precedent: the largest repatriation of Native American artifacts in U.S. history.

The private boarding school, often called Andover after the Massachusetts town it's located in, has arranged for thousands of items to be returned to the descendants of the American Indians who once lived in the pueblo. Most of those descendants now belong to the Pueblo of Jemez tribe and live near Sante Fe.

Though prompted by a 1990 federal law mandating the return of such items, Andover officials say the repatriation has brought the museum closer to its original purpose. It was founded in 1903 by Andover alumnus Robert S. Peabody, who wanted to deepen students' understanding of archaeology while also advancing the field itself.

"He said that by the time kids are in college, they've made up their minds about things," said James Bradley, the museum's director. "But when they're in high school, they're still open-minded, and that's when you want to bring new ideas to them."

In carrying out the "Andover Pecos Expedition," archaeologist Alfred V. Kidder employed new survey techniques that helped move archaeology well beyond the "pursuit of gentlemanly collecting," Mr. Bradley said. Nonetheless, it did bring back a wealth of pottery, jewelry, and pipes, as well as about 2,000 human remains, which were housed at Harvard University.

The museum's role as an educational program for students hit a turning point in 1990, when the new law forced the school to inventory its items and get in touch with the tribes to which they rightfully belonged.

In coordinating the repatriation, the school has formed a new relationship with the Jemez community and the nearby Pecos National Historic Park. Last June, eight Andover students traveled to New Mexico to study a Pecos pueblo site with a group of students from Jemez. Next month, another group of students will go to Pecos.

Last week, a delegation from the Jemez tribe identified which of the museum's objects should be returned for burial, along with the human remains from Harvard. "Even if we lose a number of objects," Mr. Bradley said, "I think we've been more than compensated by what we've learned."

--Jeff Archer

Vol. 18, Issue 37, Page 3

Published in Print: May 26, 1999, as Take Note
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