Albion College Returning Rare Idol To Southwestern US Tribe
After a professor discovered a rare artifact in storage at a Calhoun County college, efforts to return the piece are wrapping up this week.
The Jackson Citizen Patriot reports that art Professor Bille Wickre discovered the two-foot tall war god idol, called an Ahayuda, in storage at Albion College in 2015. Not knowing what it was, she worked with a scholar of Native American art to identify it as a cultural artifact of the Zuni Nation, a Pueblo tribe located in the southwestern United States. They began communicating with the tribe and working towards returning it.
The Ahayuda was donated to Albion College in 1973, and it's not known how the donor came across the item. However, at that time and decades before it, it was a somewhat common practice to take items off of Native American Reservations. Such cultural theft was outlawed in the Native American Graves Protection of Repatriation Act of 1990, which also ordered the return of such items to their original people.
Ahayuda are traditionally carved from a cottonwood tree that was struck by lightning, an act believed to infuse the piece with power. The idols are used for specific religious purposes, and are believed to serve as items of protection and peace.
The item will be returned to the Zuni people in a special ceremony at Albion College on Thursday, where a tribal elder and priests will hold a private ritual. A public gift-exchanging ceremony is being held at the college's Baldwin Hall in Albion at 5:30pm, followed by a showing of an independent Zuni film and a Q&A session with representatives from the tribe.