MAY 23, 2003

YANKTON ACTIVIST HAI-MECHA EUNKA (MARIA PEARSON) DIED

Born July 12, 1932, in Springfield, South Dakota, her Yankton name meant “Running Mocassins.”  Maria attended public and parochial schools, but was also educated in Yankton customs and traditions by her grandmother.  Her activism on the practice of removing Indian skeletons from graves and displaying the remains in museums began in 1971 when, as part of a highway construction project, the remains of white pioneers were reburied, but those of an Indian woman and her baby and artifacts were sent to State Archaeologist for study.  Pearson met with Iowa’s Governor and they reached agreement to rebury the woman, her baby, and artifacts in the same cemetery.  Her efforts led to legislation to protect Native American graves and provide for repatriation of remains—first in Iowa in 1976, and later on the Federal level with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.  A BBC documentary about Maria, Bones of Contention, aired in 1995.  She died on May 24, 2003. 

Source:  “Maria Pearson,” Ames Historical Museum.  Retrieved 3/25/2020, https://ameshistory.org/content/maria-pearson
Photo:  Ames Tribune, undated.  Ames Tribune Photo Collection.  Photo courtesy of Ames Historical Society.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: