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Pomo Basket (NMNH catalog no. E418874A)

Bonnie Newsom

Bonnie Newsom, Chair
Penobscot Indian Nation

Bonnie Newsom is a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation and serves as their Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. In this capacity, she ensures tribal compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act, identifies and manages historic properties on tribal lands, consults with federal and state agencies relative to historic site protection, participates in public education initiatives and serves as the tribal point of contact for all archaeological issues. She also provides staff support to the Wabanaki Intertribal Repatriation Committee and serves on the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission.  Her former positions include working as a research archaeologist with Archaeological Research Consultants, of Ellsworth, Maine and serving as Assistant Director of the Wabanaki Center at the University of Maine. Bonnie holds a B.A. in Anthropology and an M.S. in Quaternary Studies from the University of Maine. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Her research interests include NAGPRA and cultural affiliation, indigenous archaeologies, tribal consultation, the archaeology of the Penobscot River Valley, and aboriginal ceramics.  Bonnie has served on numerous boards and committees at both the local and national levels including the Abbe Museum, the Forest Society of Maine, the United South and Eastern Tribes Culture and Heritage Committee and NOAA's Marine Protected Areas Cultural Heritage Resources Working Group. Bonnie is the mother of four and lives with her husband Les in Eddington, Maine.  In her free time she enjoys tending her gardens, making jewelry, and spending time on the water and in the woods of Penobscot homeland.

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Shelby Tinsdale

Shelby J. Tisdale, Vice-Chair
Museums, Arts and Culture Consultant

Shelby Tisdale received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1997. She received her B.A. from the University of Colorado-Boulder where she studied anthropology and archaeology, and her M.A. from the University of Washington where she majored in social anthropology and museum studies. Dr. Tisdale has her own consulting business where she specializes in all aspects of museum operations, planning and training, Indian art, and cultural research. She has over thirty-five years of combined experience in museums; anthropological, tribal museum and cultural resource management consulting; and, university teaching. Dr. Tisdale is the former Director of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico and has served as a Director, Vice President and Curator in other museums. She has published forty articles and book chapters relating to American Indian art and culture, repatriation, and women in the West. She contributed to and directed the publication of the Oklahoma Book Award winning Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection, for the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her book, Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest: The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2006) received the Ralph Emerson Twitchell Book Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico and the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association.  Her latest book, Pablita Velarde: In Her Own Words (Little Standing Spruce Publishing, 2012), is a full-length biography of this famous American Indian painter. Shelby became interested in repatriation in the early 1980s while working on her master’s thesis which resulted in a proposed repatriation policy for the School of American Research (now the School for Advanced Research). She reported on this at the Sacred Materials Conference held at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in 1985 and has been actively involved in repatriation since. She has served on the boards of the Society for Applied Anthropology and the Mountain-Plains Museum Association.

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Darlene Miller

Darlene Miller
Seneca Nation

Nya Weh Sge:no’

Greetings, I am Darlene Miller; I am honored to serve on the Repatriation Review Committee for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. I was selected as a Spiritual leader serving on the committee to ensure compliance to custom and tradition and policy and procedure according to the law. I am a member of the Hawk Clan--we have eight clans, birds and animals--and a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Alleghany Territory, which is located about 60 miles south of Buffalo, New York. The Seneca Nation has 8,000+ members and we are a matrilineal Nation. I started my term and attended my first meeting May 2014; it is a pleasure and an honor to serve the Native American community as the Spiritual representative on this committee. I grew up on the territory learning all the customs and traditional way of life of the Seneca and Haudenasaune (people of the longhouse). I learned the ways of our people so I could share it with my community and family. I grew up in the era when gardening was a necessity, so we planted and preserved our harvest for the long winters, picked berries, and stored them. I enjoy gardening, golf, sewing traditional clothing, and making baskets, teaching anyone who wants to learn. I am a Faithkeeper in the Coldsping longhouse (handsome lake follower) for approximately 20 years, charged with the lifelong task of learning, knowing, understanding, providing direction on protocol, and passing on the traditional customs of the ceremonial protocol. Professionally I have served in several pivotal positions in the Seneca Nation Health Systems, having served as the Acting CEO for the Health Systems and the Supervisor, Manager, and Advocate liaison to the Seneca Nation Council, as well as the Health Systems Controller, third party billing and contract health services. I served a four year term as an elected official for the Seneca Nation of Indians and was employed as Legislative Specialist. One specialty and passion was the oversight of the Health, Education and Welfare committee for the Seneca community. I served on many committees in my tenure, always advocating for the community and the youth in our community because they are the future leaders. I am currently a member of the advisory board for the Faithkeeper Nesting Program (tribal), a community representative for the Community Health Assessment committee. I am a past representative for the Seneca Nation and Health Systems with the United and Southeastern Tribes and National Congress of American Indians. I am a member of the Six Nations Agricultural Society and past vice president for the Alleghany territory, and have served for a number of years. In May of 2014 I was nominated and selected for the Enduring Spirit Award. This is an award honoring women in leadership and the community. It was a great honor to be presented this award and I was the first to be honored east of the Mississippi.

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Jane Buikstra

George Milner
Professor, Pennsylvania State University


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Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson
Historic Preservation Department, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Ian Thompson began learning how to chip stone tools from his uncle at the age of seven. As a youth, Ian also learned hide-work, bow-making, pottery, shell-work, and ground stone tools from a number of traditional artisans and on his own. Balancing this cultural education with western education, Ian studied at the University of Missouri (BA in anthropology, 2002) and the University of New Mexico (MA and PhD in anthropology, 2005 and 2008, respectively). Dr. Thompson's dissertation work (Joe Watkins committee chair) brought to light aspects of Choctaw traditional art and traditional knowledge towards the goal of their revitalization by Choctaw people. Ian is a Registered Professional Archaeologist and a Tribal Council-certified Choctaw Community Language Instructor. He has demonstrated his traditional artwork at NMAI three times. Currently, Ian serves as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Director of the Historic Preservation Department, Tribal Archaeologist, and NAGPRA Specialist for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Ian and his staff of 14 work to protect Choctaw sites in a nine state area, to restore abandoned Choctaw cemeteries, to repatriate Choctaw sacred objects and human remains, to research Choctaw history, and to educate about Choctaw culture. Ian authors a monthly column in the Tribal newspaper on Choctaw history and culture, and was a co-author of "Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening." He has lead recent Tribal efforts to revitalize Choctaw traditional pottery, personally teaching more than 100 classes. In limited spare time, Ian and wife Amy Thompson play Choctaw stickball and manage a small bison farm.

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Walt Lara

Walt Lara Sr.
Yurok Tribe, California

Walter Lara Sr. is a respected spiritual leader and wisdom keeper of the Yurok Tribal people and recognized as a Native cultural and political luminary among Tribal Nations throughout the State of California. Walter has dedicated his life to the renaissance of Earth Healing and Earth Renewal Ceremonies and the revitalization of spiritual practices and lifeways of the Yurok People. He is a sought-out leader and Traditional Cultural Practitioner serves on the California State NAGPRA Commission and is a delegate of the California Rural Indian Health Board’s Keepers of the Treasure – Traditional Healing. He is also an honored recipient of the Society for California Archaeology’s California Indian Heritage Preservation Award.

Present- 2012: Red Deer Consulting: Provides cultural mentoring for regional Native Youth and Adults with special focus on ceremonial protocols, esoteric knowledge and Native cultural lifeways.

Present- 2000: Sr’atch’ apeeya-way (White Deerskin) Ceremonial Leader. Organizes ceremonial regalia and presides at the Sr’atch’ apeeya-way, a ten day World Renewal Ceremony at the traditional Yurok Village of Weitchpec.

Present- 1999: Yurok Tribe’s Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Committee. The NAGPRA committee has worked for the repatriation of regalia, ceremonial items, baskets and other cultural artifacts. The returned regalia are now used in Earth Healing and Earth Renewal ceremonies.

Present-1980: Wo-neek We Ley-goo (Jumpdance) Ceremonial Leader. Organizes ceremonial regalia and presides at the Wo-neek We Ley-goo a ten day Earth healing ceremony at the Yurok traditional village of Pecwan. In 2012, he organized and initiated the re-birth of the Jumpdance ceremony at the coastal village of Cha-pekw.

Present-1970: Mey-Lee (Brush Dance) Ceremonial Leader. Organizes and presides at the May-Lee, a three-day healing ceremony that occurs annually at three traditional Yurok village sites and within tradition territories of neighboring Hoopa and Karuk Tribal Nations.

1987-1970: Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association (NICPA). Co-founder and subsequent director of NICPA a community-based organization established for the protection of tribal burial sites (cemeteries) and sacred places. NICPA was instrumental in the first repatriation of Yurok human remains and artifacts and the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978.

1983-1976: Native American Heritage Commission of California. A Commissioner Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown. The Commission, through the Office of the State’s Attorney was a key litigant in the infamous landmark case, Lyng v. The Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association (NICPA), an American Indian religious freedom case with national precedence. The Heritage Commission, working with California Tribal Nations, was instrumental in the repatriation of human remains and funerary item that were warehoused within the State Parks Department. The Commission also established statutory protection to prevent continued looting and desecration of graves and ceremonial sites.

1979-1973: Inter-Tribal Council of California (ITCC). Seven years as the Area 1 Director and two consecutive terms as the State-wide Chairperson. The ITCC helped advance legislative initiatives and provided needed services to California Native communities.

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Pending: New Member
Affiliation email address


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Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History