By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
The Moapa Band of Paiutes honored Overton resident Trinity Tanner in a ceremony during a General Tribal Council Meeting held on Tues., Apr. 11. Council Chairman Darren Daboda presented Tanner with a beautiful wool blanket and plaque and thanked him for his help in returning ancient artifacts to the Paiute people.
Tanner had previously donated one collection of artifacts originally discovered on or nearby the reservation back to the tribe and recently located and donated back a second collection.
Tanner said he found the artifacts in some boxes as he was going through his father’s things. The artifacts were in riker mounts, which were frequently used to display artifacts during the mid-20th century. Every piece included documentation about where and when the piece was found as well as who found it.
The artifacts were originally uncovered during CCC excavations along the Muddy River. The excavations began in 1924 and continued through the 1930’s and stretched from modern day Coyote Springs to Lake Mead.
The excavations were conducted by Mark Harrington, a noted archaeologist of the time, who was called in to salvage as much as possible from the Lost City site before it was buried under Lake Mead. Although many of the artifacts salvaged were sent to museums, including the Lost City Museum, some artifacts still ended up in private collections. Two local men, Fay and John Perkins were part of the excavation team. Fay Perkins is Tanner’s great-grandfather.
Tanner says that today artifacts like these are priceless. Many are sold on the black market for tens of thousands of dollars, but Tanner feels that needs to stop.
“These artifacts have only monetary significance to us, but they have enormous historical significance to the Paiute people,” Tanner said. “You have to make the decision to return them to their rightful owners.”
Tanner said that he believes that the people who originally found the artifacts started out with the best of intentions. However, when many artifacts ended up in private collections what started out as a bid to save history became a huge injustice.
“These people had their heritage stolen and now they have so little left,” Tanner said. “We can’t undo the past, but we can right the wrongs. It is a rare opportunity to have a chance to correct what went wrong in history.”
Most of the artifacts that were discovered from the dig sites were Paiute in origin. However, some of the older artifacts are Anasazi or Ancient Puebloan. The range of dates on the items has helped establish a full archaeological record of the people that lived near the Muddy River from ancient times to the present.
The collection Tanner donated includes unbroken pottery, bowls, broadpoint arrowheads and small point arrowheads exclusive to the region that were used to hunt chuckwallas.
“These arrowheads are works of art,” Tanner said. “They are precision instruments constructed with surgical exactness. Each tribe has things that are unique to them that make their band who they are. They made tools that were specific to their way of life. Looking at them you can tell the hours of work that went into making them and you can picture them using them, which helps bring history to life.”
Daboda, as well as the other members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, is grateful to have these artifacts returned. Daboda spoke highly of Tanner and his generosity. “I think it shows character and that he loves this area and knows its history,” he said. “I think it speaks volumes that he is willing to return these things to us and it shows he respects us and our heritage.”
Daboda spoke briefly at the award ceremony and told Tanner, “We appreciate what you’ve done for our tribe. We appreciate how well you have cared for these artifacts and that you’ve presented them back to us. We don’t see artifacts in this condition very often. They are part of our culture; part of our heritage. Thank you so very much.”
The first set of artifacts donated by Tanner has been put in a display case in the entry way of the community center on the reservation. Daboda says that a second display case has been ordered and that they plan to display the second set similarly.