Learn from artifacts, don’t destroy them

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 31, 2016

We were extremely disappointed to read the Jan. 18 front page article on Brock Smith’s arrowhead business, and disappointed the Oxford EAGLE chose to highlight this so prominently.

The article focuses on the monetary value of these items, and provides instructions to Mississippians about how to find Native American artifacts. Although it is correct that you should always get permission from private landowners and not excavate on state or federal lands, the article misses the bigger point.

These artifacts are invaluable because they tell us about our history. Once artifacts are removed from their context great history and information is lost; we are left guessing about cultures rather than more definitively knowing them.

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We urge Oxford residents to refrain from collecting and selling Native American and other historic objects. Instead, learn about the great diversity of Native American cultures. Learn about Mississippi’s history and how you can help preserve it by visiting the Mississippi Department of Archives and History webpage.

In fact, we have a great legacy of preserving our past in Mississippi. Beginning in 1917 Mississippians across the state donated thousands of artifacts they had collected to the University of Mississippi because they realized the priceless value of these artifacts as symbols of Mississippi’s diverse past. Most of these artifacts were from Native American sites and are currently stored at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

With the support of the College of Liberal Arts, they are currently being curated and inventoried to federal standards. One goal of this project is to create a museum on campus in which these artifacts can be displayed and we can all learn about Mississippi’s great history.

By not looting and selling artifacts, we can continue this great legacy and truly show we value our heritage as past Mississippians so clearly showed us.

University of Mississippi

Native American and Indigenous Studies Working Group

Mikaela Adams, History

Heather Allen, Modern Languages

Tony Boudreaux, Sociology & Anthropology/Center for Archaeological Research

Kate Centellas, Sociology and Anthropology

Robbie Ethridge, Sociology and Anthropology

Maureen Meyers, Sociology and Anthropology

Annette Trefzer, English

Tamara Warhol, Modern Languages