FBI seized apparent Native American scalp from Fairfield auction house, document says

FBI agents searched Poulin’s Antiques & Auctions Inc. at 199 Skowhegan Road in Fairfield in May and confiscated what they believe was a Native American scalp, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed this week in federal court in Bangor. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Watch

FAIRFIELD – An auction house listed what appears to have been a Native American scalp for sale earlier this year before a tip led the FBI to search the business and confiscate the alleged human remains, according to an affidavit of the FBI unsealed this week in federal court.

Officers have opened an investigation into possible illegal trafficking in human remains after the suspected scalp was seized in May from Poulin’s Antiques & Auctions Inc. at 199 Skowhegan Road in Fairfield.

Authorities received a tip from someone outside Maine that Poulin listed an item online as “Apache scalp,” according to the affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court in Bangor.

The list included a beaded pipe bag and what authorities believe to be a scalp with a tag reading: “Mescallaro (sic) Apache, Scalp. Killed at Johnson’s Run Texas Sent to Frank Owens by Lance Brewington Former Maysville man above told me by Lance B. in Joplin Mo. 1899 WW Gibson.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe is a federally recognized Native American tribe based in New Mexico. Prior to the reservation period, the tribesmen were nomadic hunters and known to be skilled horsemen. They were given the name “Mescalero” because they ate mescal or agave.

Testing is ongoing to confirm if the item is human scalp. Investigators are also working to determine whether the case could violate federal law on the protection and repatriation of Native American graves.

Joel Casey, a Maine federal prosecutor, wrote in an email that the auction house cooperated with the search.

“A process is underway to determine if the object is human, if it is a Native American and if, if it is a Native American, the remains are those of a person who was a member of a particular tribe,” Casey wrote. “If investigators determine that the remains are those of a Native American who was a member of a particular tribe, efforts will be made to repatriate the remains to the tribe for burial.

“All of these efforts will be conducted in consultation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and relevant tribal authorities and conducted in a culturally sensitive manner.”

No charges have been filed. A phone call Thursday seeking comment from Poulin’s Antiques & Auctions was not returned.

The existence of Native American scalps has a long and tragic history. European and American colonial governments offered bounties for Native American scalps for decades after colonizing North America. Officials are reportedly offering bounties to men, women and children in at least 23 states, according to Benjamin Madley in “Reexamining the American Genocide Debate: Meaning, Historiography, and New Methods”,in The American Historical Review.

Many Native American deaths can be tracked through bounties. Between 1703 and 1704, for example, Massachusetts paid 208 scalps, according to Madley.

“By demonstrating that bounties on body parts – which motivated all or part of this collection of heads, hands and scalps – could be an effective policy of killing Indians, the colonists established a lethal tradition and sustainable,” Madley wrote.

Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana told the News Center Maine she hopes people will react to the news of the auction house listing with disgust and a desire to atone for the past.

“It saddens me to think that any human being would want to celebrate, commemorate and even benefit from the violent and tragic legacy of genocide against indigenous peoples in our home countries,” Dana told the TV channel. television. “It goes against the standards of decency that should exist universally among people of all backgrounds and life experiences.”

Poulin’s Antiques & Auctions is a family business founded in the 1950s. The company’s website lists its extensive auction catalog and highlights from past auctions. It also indicates that, based on annual sales, the company is one of the leading specialty firearms auction houses in North America.

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