How a historian discovered a priceless Indian artifact in a trunk

Historians in the News
tags: Smithsonian, Lakota, Indian



It’s been called one of the greatest treasures housed in all of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History — not bad for something once stuck in the bottom of a trunk stored in Ontario and Upland. 

Suburban San Bernardino County is hardly the locale you’d expect for a great archeological discovery, but in that trunk — ignored for many years while there — a priceless relic of Native American heritage was found in 1998.

It’s called a winter count, a virtual picture history of a Sioux or Lakota Indian tribe. At the arrival of the season’s first snowfall, a leader or shaman added a picture of some important event or experience from that year. The relic, last added to about 1888, has 136 years of pictographs believed as far back as 1752. 

The artifact came to light innocently enough in 1998 when Dr. Timothy Tackett, now history professor emeritus at UC Irvine, was in Watsonville helping his mother Jean pack up things for a move to Washington state.

Tackett’s family had lived in Pomona, Ontario and Upland before his mother moved north, bringing along the old trunk that his aunt, Myrtle Miller Anderson, had when she lived her last years with them....




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