In Response to the Harvard Peabody Museum's Recent Announcement
Last Thursday, November 10, the Harvard Peabody Museum released new information about its possession of a recently recovered collection of hair samples from over 900 Native American individuals, many obtained from American Indian industrial/boarding school students. The tawdry history of these assimilative boarding schools remains an affront to Native American communities. A regular routine in these schools was the involuntary cutting of new students’ hair. Indigenous cultural perspectives about hair often emphasize its place in the full (and sacred) integrity of the person. In consequence, many in the Indigenous community at Harvard and throughout the country are feeling shocked, pained, outraged, disappointed, and disoriented by this revelation. This collection is another palpable reminder of the systematic racism and dehumanizing practices that Indigenous people have suffered. HUNAP is committed to supporting our members, educating the broader Harvard community and, of course, navigating our own reactions. Students in particular are grappling with the implications of this collection for their life at Harvard. As an ally, you can support the Harvard Native community by giving affected students the time and space they need to process this disturbing revelation. To all Native students: please lean on HUNAP as an available resource and community for support during this trying time. While the acquisition and possession of this collection is inexcusable, we can use this occurrence as an opportunity to collectively celebrate our strengths, exercise our sovereignty, and anticipate the imminent return of these samples to descendant families and tribal communities.